Scary Stories to tell in the Dark was a staple anthology series to have on hand for any budding horror enthusiast, myself included. Many a nights I would find myself sitting in the room I shared with my brother, lights off, using a flashlight to read aloud the frightening tales contained in these books and scare the both of us half to death. It was made all the easier with Alvin Schwartz’s convenient notes on how to deliver the scariest of lines. Fast forward about 20 years and I can pinpoint these moments as to the reason why I love horror to this day.
These monstrous creatures from my childhood were brought to life in the movie adaptation of Scary Stories to tell in the Dark produced by Guillermo del Torro – present day king of the monster flick if you ask me. The genius decision was made to have the anthology stories connected by an overarching story for the film as opposed to having the film mirror the books anthology format. The film centers around the story of a small town with a stereotypical haunted house. Contained within the haunted house is a book that writes you into the scary stories, eventually coming true.
Although the stories are not exactly the same as those contained in the Scary Stories anthologies, I actually enjoyed the creative liberties taken in this film. The stories were tweaked just enough to fit into the narrative of the film. Instead of a kid finding a toe in a garden and taking it home to cook for his family, a stew appears in the kitchen of a somewhat neglected teen while his family is out of town and unknowingly consumes the toe. The result remains the same, a terrifying zombie comes searching for the toe it is missing.
In typical del Torro fashion, the monsters are both visually interesting and terrifying. The most terrifying – in my opinion – being the gruesome Me Tie Dough-ty Walker man and the most interesting being the Pale Woman. Seeing the Pale Woman, a recreation from a drawing contained within the book, was such a surreal experience. I congratulate the entire makeup/fx department because they captured everything that made the Pale Woman both terrifying and somewhat shy. From her formless body to her wide set eyes and strange smirk, it was like seeing the nightmares from my childhood come to life. Each monster was capable of striking fear in the hearts of any who faced them.
I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending, as it seemed contradictory to the films core message. Ramon heading to the Vietnam war doesn’t change the fact that his brother was still murdered there – a perfectly valid reason to not want to go. I also wondered why Stella was not able to just use her blood fueled pen to write her friends back into existence. It seemed like the logical conclusion to Sarah’s ghost handing it to her.
Scary Stories is not particularly deep or profound, but I believe that fits in with the campfire story quality of the anthology series. It contains all the classic necessities of a horror film including jump scares while maintaining an innocent quality which isn’t seen much within the horror genre. Scary Stories is a perfect entrance to the fall season and I will definitely be watching it again closer to Halloween.