Growing up in the 90s, there were plenty of tales designed for kids to try and scare us without crossing the line. Are you Afraid of the Dark, Goosebumps, Tales from the Crypt (both cartoon and regular), and even the Sci-Fi Channel held their own in bringing the horror to the modern-day audience. As such, a good scary story in any form can really leave an impact that stays with someone for much of their lives. Enter today’s review, where the theme is the impact that stories can have on us and a little extreme case involving bringing your darkest nightmares to life. Robbie K is back with the third review of the week and we bring you a look at:
Movie: Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark (2019)
The Creature Design
The Suspense At Times
The Narrative Approach
The Disturbing Moments At Times
Throw Away Characters
With the flood of horror movies that come into the theaters, sometimes you find pacing and content issues replaced with gimmicks. Scary stories manages to take the anthology book and bind them together into a decent film, with a pace that feels very much like the classic shows that is fun, adventurous, and semi-engaging to craft a decent film. It comes from a better balance, finding ways to integrate multiple entertainment qualities while always keeping its finger on the pulse of horror. The comedy is corny, but natural, as it relieves some of the tension that is building up primarily from the character Chuck (Austin Zajur). In regards to creature design, Scary Tales again adds some variety to their mix, picking new media to torture our main characters, which adds variety and doesn’t over utilize a gimmick (like the original Alien did). Suspense is well placed in the movie, managing to make peaks and valleys of excitement the way an exercise program works. By taking this approach it avoids the burnout some of these horror movies experience and manages to miss the mark of hasty finishes these films sometimes take. As for the acting, well I’m good with it too. The kids do just fine playing scared students stumbling in to a new world and facing the consequences. Like a weirder version of Stranger Things, the portrayal of weird, concern, and scared/terrified is a well-balanced performance that did not quite annoy me as some of them do. Overall, these elements point to one thing, a narrative approach that feels like those kids books I loved, creepy and shocking, but never sacrificing the connecting spine to link all the sequences and creeps together.
Yet the movies does suffer a few things for this reviewer, but remember the volume of horror movies I see had desensitized me so I’ll do my best to factor that in. First of all, the Scary Stories do not quite fit the originality bill in terms of story overall. Originality is tough, but the movies formulaic approach and obvious foreshadowing would have been nice to break given the other walls it broke to focusing on plot then just gimmicks. A second factor would have been to put more scare factor into it, treading closer to the R line could have brought the PG-13 film to the next level had they managed to craft some scarier moments. The disturbing, creepy atmosphere and moments help, but they got lost to small gimmicks and cheesy CGI at times that diluted the scare factors. A few of my friends found the scare factor to be a little more than I did, so if you aren’t desensitized like me, you may find this dislike not the same. Finally, a few characters held much potential, but many of them were throw away characters, merely sacrificial pawns to be sacrificed to the curse of horror movies. Build up at the beginning held promise, but I would have liked to see these characters developed and battling a little more to actually care and connect instead of being left unfazed. In addition, the story tie in could again have been developed more, primarily for the ghost they are chasing and the weird approach they took to tell her story, but hey more on that for the potential sequel to come.
Let’s finish this up. Summarizing the review, Scary Stories certainly is a tale to tell in the dark, or the theater in this case. It’s a good tale that tributes back to the 90s horror decade, with a narrative that binds so many things together to make you laugh and potentially jump. I liked the balance a lot and the diversity of the creatures and means to which our “heroes” are trying to solve the legendary mystery. Yet, the film still does not have quite the bite and scare factor for this reviewer (remember desensitized) and I would have liked a little more of it and the narrative put in and finding a way to break the mold on the predictability. Nevertheless, this is one of the better horror tales that I have seen in a long time, and as I said give it a shot in the theater.
My scores are:
Movie Overall: 6.5