The new flick “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” shows off a variety of monsters—some are creepy, some are disgusting, and some may just have you exclaiming, as one character does, “You are @#+% me!”
It is Halloween of 1968, in Mill Valley, Pennsylvania, an industrial town that has known better days. And a group of high schoolers dare to venture into the old haunted Bellows mansion. There are three misfits, the sister of one of the teens, and the class bully.
They discover a secret room where the strange, misbegotten daughter, Sarah Bellows, was imprisoned back at the turn of the century.
The heroine, Stella, finds Sarah’s Book of Scary Stories, and she impulsively makes off with it. Too late, she realizes her mistake. New stories magically materialize on the blank pages of the book, scrawled in blood red, and one by one, her friends meet a ghoulish fate.
The film, based on a 1980’s book series also called “Scary Stories”, is not an anthology. But the plot mixes in different styles and settings. One episode takes place in a mental hospital, another could be a slightly gross campfire story (with a corpse searching for its big toe); and another is set in a spooky cornfield. (Safety tip for you kids at home—never disrespect a scarecrow!)
If you don’t like this story, don’t worry. Another is coming along soon.
The director, Andre Ovredal, has a resume of off-beat horror and sci-fi tales. Mexican horrormeister Guillermo del Toro is a producer on the film, and one of the five writers. He’s best known for the Oscar-winning “The Shape of Water,” and come to think of it, the monsters here often have a soggy rotted-out look.
The backdrop of the story is more than just creepiness. One of the teens is aching over the loss of a parent, an environmental crime is revealed in the town’s history, and Richard Nixon is elected to the White House.
The cast is made up of new, young faces, led by Zoe Margaret Coletti as Stella, who shows a talent herself for writing scary stories.
The film isn’t a classic, but it’s a nice change from sequels and remakes. “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” gets three-and-a-half pumpkins out of five.