Remember the good ol’ days of being 10-years-old and going to a friend’s sleepover and deciding to give all your buddies a good scare? The best way to do this was with the iconic horror series Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. These stories had some of the most frightening tales filled with chills, thrills and jump scares. Now the stories have been brought to life in the live-action film opening in theaters on August 9.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark takes place in 1968 in the small town of Mill Valley where anything scary will come back to haunt its residents. This doesn’t actually include ghouls; some characters have their own unresolved conflicts that they’re dealing with. But little do they know the real terror of what they’d be facing. On Halloween night, teenagers Stella, Chuck, Auggie and Ramon make their way over to a “haunted” house where a girl named Sarah Bellows used to live hundreds of years ago. Rumor has it that she lived a terrifying life and wrote creepy stories in a book. But when the teens discover that book, they don’t realize that these stories are about to come to life and all of them will be on a fight for their lives against monstrous fiends.
Fans of the books will see memorable tales in the movie, including “Harold,” “The Big Toe” and the disgustingly fun one “The Red Spot.” The film’s director Andre Ovredal and screenplay writer Guillermo del Toro added some creative details in these stories that blend well with the books. The film’s stories don’t follow the exact moments that happen in the books, but del Toro and Ovredal added in unique elements to give these stories a new kind of twist. And thankfully, it doesn’t take that much away from what fans remember from the books.
Del Toro, who made a surprise appearance at the advanced screening in Hollywood, California, said that he wanted to put something together that horror fans would love whether it’s for an adult or a child.
“We wanted to do sort of a young adult equivalent in this movie for kids, for families,” del Toro said. “I think there are three generations who read this book. So Grandma, Dad, Mom, whoever wants to come is fine to see the movie. It’s beautiful, it’s fun, it’s creepy.”
What makes this movie so terrifying is how grisly each ghoul is. Harold, who fans might remember as the trotting scarecrow who lays skin out to dry, has the face of nightmares. With his pumpkin head and bugs crawling out of his face, that’s enough to give audiences a giant shudder. But when his story begins in a similar way as to what happens in the written story, that’s when the nightmare truly comes alive.
Speaking of nightmares, readers may also be familiar with “The Dream-” the story about the girl who sees a pale woman with long black hair in a dark bedroom and eerily whispers “This is an evil place. Run away while you still can.” Not only does the pale woman appear in the movie, but she makes her presence so memorable that it’s almost too much to handle.
With every monster that shows up, one of the most talked about ones will be the Jangly Man. He is technically a new character although he makes a connection with one of the most chilling stories from the original book. If the Jangly Man looks familiar at all, it’s because he’s played by Troy James- the contortionist from America’s Got Talent who made audiences scream and gasp with his spine-tingling twists.
The stars of the film ought to have promising careers ahead of them after putting all their dedication in becoming horror icons. Zoe Margaret Colletti plays Stella, the smart and shy girl who blossoms beautifully as the film’s final girl. Michael Garza also does splendidly as the leading man who stands up to bullies and knows when to run from danger. Then there is Austin Zajur who plays Chuck, the clown of the group and later finds himself in probably the most harrowing scene of the movie with the pale woman. Natalie Ganzhorn plays Ruth, the most typical 1968 girl one can imagine. Her big scene with “The Red Spot” is incredibly bizarre as she tries to find out what is happening with that red mark on her face. The second that spider leg pops out, all hell breaks loose- kind of literally.
The movie has a number of jump scenes that are frightening beyond belief. But the film is not like watching horror that is simply meant to cause panic and shock. This film is about the memories of being young and having those scary sleepovers when youth was just starting to appreciate horror. It’s those early moments that horror buffs will appreciate as they see their favorite ghost stories brought to life on the big screen. The film could’ve added some other classics from the books (“What Do You Come For,” “The Girl Who Stood on a Grave” or “The Bride”) even if it was just for a brief moment. But the ones that were used were fun, nonetheless, and are bound to give scary movie buffs a good time.