Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
Alvin Schwartz’s collection of short horror stories for kids gets a big-screen attempt with Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, directed by Andre Ovredal and produced by Guillermo del Toro. The three original books gathered together some stories from folklore and urban legend, with Schwartz putting his own spin on them, even instructing young readers on how to scare their friends while reading them aloud. They were micro-short, they were sometimes grisly, and they had no connective thread. They also managed to make their way into campfire stories in the ’80s. I distinctly remember somebody getting me with “The Big Toe” one summer’s eve. Rather than do an anthology movie, like a Creepshow for kids, Ovredal and del Toro opt for a framing device that is a direct nod, one could say rip-off, of the Stranger Things/Stephen King’s It nostalgia genre involving plucky kids dealing with various horrors. The resultant film feels derivative, disconnected and quite boring, a bunch of decent ideas crammed into a storyline that just doesn’t work. The gimmick attempting to hold everything together is the story of Sarah Bellows (not a character in the books), an abused, long-deceased girl whose journal of stories is discovered by the aforementioned plucky teens led by Stella (Zoe Colletti) in 1968. Others in the group include Auggie, the slightly intellectual guy (Gabriel Rush); Chuck, the goofy guy (Austin Zajur); and Ramon, the mysterious newbie (Michael Garza). All the group really needs is a young, quiet girl with a short haircut and an affinity for Eggos, and the Stranger Things circuit would be complete.