Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is a novel published in 1981 that includes a series of short horror stories for children, the work of writer Alvin Schwartz. As you can imagine, the fact of being aimed at a child audience made it enjoy enormous popularity, and together with the accompanying illustrations made by the artist Stephen Gammell, terrified a whole generation.
So it is not surprising that Guillermo del Toro, a renowned director known for his devotion to terror, decided to produce this film, which is signed by André Øvredal, director of Trollhunter and La Jane Doe's Autopsy.
But when you go to the movies to watch this film, don't expect to see a series of disjointed stories, united only by their terrifying theme. Instead, we find a script that cleverly spins some of the most popular of the original book through a history of youth adventures.
The story takes us to a small town in rural America, in the late 60s, where the group formed by Stella (Zoe Colletti), Chuck (Austin Zajur) and Auggie (Gabriel Rush) is celebrating Halloween night. A hooligan against Tommy (Austin Abrams) and his group of thugs goes well, and the trio is forced to undertake the flight, but not before making friends with the mysterious Ramón (Michael Garza). The flight ends in the abandoned mansion of the town, where they end up awakening by mistake the vengeful spirit of a young woman who died in strange circumstances, and whose hobby was to tell stories to scare the children.
As you can see, the argument does not shine precisely because of its originality. In fact, that is perhaps the biggest problem of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark: it does nothing to uncheck itself and follows the trite "standard horror movie manual". The interesting thing comes when the stories come into play: the spirit has the power to turn everything it writes into a mysterious book into reality, the power it uses to torment the protagonists by "inserting them" into terrifying stories. Stories that, as you may have already guessed, are the stories of the original novel.
In this way we jump from one story to another, visiting some of the most emblematic, while the group tries to discover the mystery before it is too late. This division marked by different situations that affect the protagonists is reminiscent of Final Destination (and its sequels) and is characterized by the agility of the story, achieving a film with a very good pace and always entertaining, despite the absence of surprises.
But if you have to cite a comparable (and recent) example, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark has reminded us of It from 2017 for successfully mixing terrifying parts with lighter ones in which the sensation of adventure predominates, achieving a most interesting contrast. Unfortunately, terror parties rely heavily on easy scares.
So do not expect to feel a real fear watching Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark... There are also a couple of quite grotesque situations that will make you shudder and even look away from the screen.