by Kyle Arango
Full disclosure, I am very easily frightened and horror movies are tough for me. This year has been terrifying with films like Annabelle Comes Home, Us, Pet Sematary, and even Crawl just scaring the life out of me. I have a 3-hour clown film to deal within a couple of weeks! So, with Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark up next, hopefully, this can be a nice little adventure that’s title is far scarier than the material. Noooooope. While scary for me, that doesn’t mask that this film is a messy and boring journey that is more concerned with sequences to scare you over an actual story,
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is based on a popular novel series for younger audiences meant to scare them. The film takes those short stories and combines them into one big extravaganza. Goosebumps is another series that has done a similar thing but in a more meta way. Scary Stories is going straight for putting us in their own world. We follow a group of kids who go into a haunted house on Halloween (because of course they do) and discover a book of scary stories written by a deceased woman who has a dark history. When the book is rediscovered, it starts writing its own stories about the kids who find it and how they die one by one. Problem is the stories come to life and actually start to kill off the group. From there they must find out how they can stop this from happening. It is not a bad idea for a film like I said, we have seen this before. Problem is they never do anything of note with it. The film fails to grab the audience’s attention beyond just startling them with jump scares and really just ends up being boring and forgettable.
The primary problem with Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is the lack of focus for the story. Simply put, the film cares so much more about its kill sequences than anything else and forgets that there is more to telling a story. It is as if they had these ideas for how they could adapt these monsters and their kills to screen and just how terrifying they could be and then just built a film around that. It shows in just how terrible everything else is. The acting is laughable from everyone involved. Not a single actor does anything redeemable. They are told to either be wooden or a complete clown show where neither are believable. As a result, there is not one character for the audience to latch onto or root for, so we just wait for their kill to come next. The pacing is also just atrocious. Everything leading up to the discovery of the book feels like what a cheap Nickelodeon film would do. From there you can see the structure of this film. Kill sequence, kids stare into books for research, kill sequence, kids stare at newspapers, kill sequences, kids stare at records and so on and so forth.
In the end, while I was frightened watching Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, I never found myself enjoying the experience. I just got angrier at this film as it went along with just how lazy everything is besides the kill sequences. Even the scares are lazy with them just being jump scares. The characters are abysmal with weird backstories that end up having no merit such as a kid being a draft dodger. If you are a fan of the books, there is no need to see your beloved property adapted poorly on the big screen and you should just read the books again instead.
The Verdict: 2/5 Stars