Movie Review: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

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Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is a surprisingly smart film about the stories we tell ourselves and why they scare and fascinate us. 

The shadow of the Bellows family has loomed large in the small town of Mill Valley for generations. It’s in a mansion that young Sarah Bellows turns her tortured life and horrible secrets into a series of scary stories. These terrifying tales soon have a way of becoming all too real for a group of unsuspecting teens who stumble upon Sarah’s spooky home.

In the film, numerous stories are written by Sarah Bellows which are inspired by the famous collection of short horror stories by Alvin Schwartz. When these stories come to life is exciting. They have the nightmarish ideas of folk tales or urban legends. Harold the scarecrow is effectively creepy and the creature who assembles himself from its own severed limbs is just terrifying. Director Andre Ovredal proves that you don’t need over-the-top make-up or gallons of blood to generate an effective scare – just walk past the same scarecrow a few times only to realize it has disappeared. 

Austin Zajur in SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK to be released by CBS Films and Lionsgate. Image courtesy of CBS Films

The film is pretty ruthless when it comes to killing its characters, but it also has themes of forgiveness and healing, which oddly pairs well with the ‘scare-the-kids-so-badly-they-never-sleep-again’ agenda. Zoe Colletti and Michael Garza have amazing chemistry, but no one watches a horror film for the romance. 

The ending slightly hints at a possible sequel. As the title says, there is more than one story to tell. Ovredal does a good job staying true to beloved tales while adding twists to keep the story fresh. Thanks to him, the film isn’t just a bunch of different scary stories. Its a look at why the stories we tell ourselves help us grow and that’s terrifying in itself.

Critic Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Writer/Blogger. Movies, television and reviewing them are my passions. When I put my mind to something, there is nothing I can't accomplish. Ryan also has a movie blog:

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