Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
Updated: Jul 19, 2021
The 285th review!
One thing you might not know about me, when I’m not watching horror movies, I’m actually a news producer by trade. This time of year is always really rough for me because we’re so close to the election and everyone is at each other’s throats. It’s no fun. After seeing it all through Facebook and through work, you need to wind down. And one way for me to do that is to look back on something I’m nostalgic about. I used to read the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books all the time growing up. I loved them. And when I found out Hollywood was making a movie on them, I was a little worried because it doesn’t have the best track record on things I loved growing up. So for tonight I wanted to see how they did, so I watched...
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019) Family Video rental
The book series, created by Alvin Schwartz weren’t so much scary, more creepy than anything. But the illustrations... my goodness! Stephen Gammell’s work is phenomenal. The pictures were so much scarier than what I was reading. The drawings are nightmare fuel. And keep in mind... these are children’s books!
By the time I read them, I was well versed in Jason, Michael, Chucky and Freddy. But visually this was scarier than what I was seeing on TV. For the movie, I was mainly worried about how it was going to look because the look was always the most important and memorable part of the series.
The movie follows around a group of teens. On Halloween night 1968, they prank the school bully. After losing him after a short chase, four of them decide to sneak into the town’s haunted house for some Halloween fun. Unfortunately for them, the bully finds them there and locks them in the basement. The lone girl, Stella, decides to steal a book from the house. But it’s not just any book, this book belongs to Sarah Bellows. Legend has it, Sarah would tell a scary story to anyone who broke in and it would be the last one they’d ever hear. Unsurprisingly, Sarah doesn’t appreciate the theft. So in the book, new stories start showing up and they start playing out in real life. Now shortly after that, people that are written about go missing and the protagonists start investigating.
I like that the movie went with the 1960’s setting because it made their search for answers a lot more fun. If this were in the present day, one of them would just whip out their phone and get all the answers. These kids actually went to their local library to get some clues. I’m old to remember having to write research papers in grade school and leaving my library with a stack of books. Granted all my information came from one source, but my bibliographies were always very impressive. Anyways...
The movie captured the feel of the books pretty well and I felt a lot more fear and dread watching the stories play out than I ever did reading them. But visually... it’s just wasn’t as good. That was always going to be the hardest part of making this movie. How do you take a picture that was so disturbing and unsettling and translate that to the big screen? It performed admirably. It had a hit, and some misses.
The Pale Lady, definite hit! She looks great and her big scene is by the far the scariest part of the movie. Literally every second she’s on screen and the build to her appearance is fantastic. Just thinking about her debut and the slow inevitability of her approach, mixed with the never-changing slight grin on her face is honestly creeping me out right now. I would probably have a heart attack if that happened to me in real life. I loved it.
As far as nostalgia goes, this movie hit all the right notes. It was truly a pleasure seeing the titles pop up in the book and immediately thinking, ‘I know this one! That person is about to have a bad time.’ We had “The Big Toe,” “The Dream,” “Me Tie Dough-ty Walker” and “The Red Spot.” I already discussed “The Dream” and the other two follow the same beats of the original story but I think ‘The Red Spot” definitely works better on film. I don’t mind spiders personally, but seeing it play out made my skin crawl. Very well done.
Each segment is pretty faithful to the source material except for the “Me Tie Dough-ty Walker” scene. That’s disappointing because that was the only story in the series that ever got to me. Summed up, a young boy agrees to stay in a haunted house for money. Supposedly a bloody head falls down the chimney every night. Shortly after midnight the boy hears someone singing outside “Me Tie Dough-ty Walker.” And to make things worse, his dog responds in English in a similar non-sensical phrase. Despite doing everything he can to quiet his pet, his dog keeps responding to the call, and the call gets louder and closer. It’s extremely unnerving.
In this version the dog kind of repeats the phrase, sort of. And when the head does come down the chimney, it opens its eyes and growls, ““Me Tie Dough-ty Walker!” I was disappointed when I heard the voice. It was such a creepy set up and they went with was the “obvious scary” decision. It completely took me out of the mood. It’s hard to explain, and maybe I’m in the minority here, but using it growl the phrase instead of the haunting way in the book was disappointing.
Still, the monster gets redeemed because it uses the “Jangly Man” from “What do you Come For?” and he’s very memorable in his own right because he’s pretty unique and grotesque. The monster is played by a contortionist making some really scary and cool movements as he chases around his target.
Watching this movie brought back so many fond memories that I spent a lot of it smiling. The story holding the whole thing together isn’t the greatest and the prank that set everything in into motion in the beginning wasn’t well thought-out and relied on a lot of luck. Literally if the bully happens to drive down a different street or isn’t with a group of friends, this movie doesn’t happen. But still, it’s a fun film with genuine frights. With that said, I’m really looking forward to the sequel.
8 Dr. Chainsaws!
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark - Amazon Prime
Sarah, a young girl with horrible secrets, turned her tortured life into a series of scary stories, written in a book that has transcended time - stories that have a way of becoming all too real for a group of teenagers who discover Sarah's terrifying home.
Directors Andre Ovredal
Subtitles English [CC]
Audio languages English