SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK (2019) Reviews and overview

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Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is a 2019 supernatural horror feature film directed by André Øvredal (The Autopsy of Jane Doe; Troll Hunter) and co-produced by Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water; Crimson Peak; Cronos; et al).


The latter co-wrote the screenplay with Kevin Hageman, Dan Hageman, Patrick Melton, and Marcus Dunstan (The Collector; Piranha 3DD), based on the book series of the same name, written by Alvin Schwartz.

The movie stars Zoe Colletti, Michael Garza, Gabriel Rush, Austin Abrams, Dean Norris, Kathleen Pollard, Gil Bellows, Lorraine Toussaint, Austin Zajur and Natalie Ganzhorn.

Lionsgate released Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark on August 9, 2019. The MPAA rated the movie PG-13.


It’s l968 in America. Change is blowing in the wind… but seemingly far removed from the unrest in the cities lies the small town of Mill Valley where for generations, the shadow of the Bellows family has loomed large.

The shadow of the Bellows family has loomed large in the small town of Mill Valley for generations. It’s in a mansion that young Sarah Bellows turns her tortured life and horrible secrets into a series of scary stories. These terrifying tales soon have a way of becoming all too real for a group of unsuspecting teens who stumble upon Sarah’s spooky home.


It is in their mansion on the edge of town that 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 tome.


“When he’s telling weird supernatural tales Øvredal is clearly in his element, and the movie often works very well for several, breathless minutes at a time. But in between those excellent scares, there’s a lot of filler, a lot of perfunctory plotting and a lot of mediocre character development.” Bloody Disgusting

“Øvredal’s film isn’t aimed at the same crowd that he sought with The Autopsy of Jane Doe. That simply wouldn’t make sense. If he and the rest of the cast/crew had the intention of making a kickass horror movie for the teenage audience, then they can rest well knowing that they succeeded. Schwartz and Gammell should be feeling a great deal of pride right about now.” Dread Central

“The film’s period setting and kids in peril will undoubtedly remind viewers of Stephen King’s It — especially of the movie and its impending second chapter — but the beauty of stories isn’t found in the broad strokes. It’s in the details between the lines, between the pages, and between bedtime and morning when you hope to wake up from your nightmares.” Film School Rejects

“The characters are too bland and forgettable, some of the stories have a deflating payoff, and even things such as the order of which teenager will be attacked next fall into an obtuse pattern. There are a few imaginatively wicked passages within Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, but the rest can go collect dust.” Flickering Myth

So how about the monsters? They’re alright — very much in keeping with del Toro’s fresh-from-the-pages-of-my-sketchbook! ethos […] All of these beasties are “scary.” Though they’d be much more so if they felt less like franchisable IP and more like fervent expressions of the ills of the eras on which the film aims to comment.” The Hollywood Reporter

“There’s nothing there but the scares, and it hardly feels like a coincidence that the scariest on-screen adaptation is also the simplest. Horror can tell stories larger than those that just generate screams, and it doesn’t have to twist itself into knots in order to work. The movie tries to do too much, ultimately failing to do any of it well. If you’ll excuse the pun, it just can’t seem to find a happy medium.” Polygon

” …the seams around the anthology show—we don’t quite connect with the kids’ individual fears in a deep sense when their nightmares find them. Thankfully, however, even Øvredal seems to know the parts here are greater than the sum and doesn’t shy away from showing off the visual tricks he’s got up his sleeve to make each spine-tingling sequence pop in their own way.”

“Director André Øvredal delivers a wonderfully tense and patient horror film that is well worth the risk. Unlike so many films aimed at a similar demographic, Scary Stories gives its audience plenty of reasons to be patient and wait for the payoff. There are very few jump scares, but lots of truly spooky sequences.” Screen Anarchy

“If the movie had simply been a collection of short tales, it might have been effective (though omnibus films are notoriously difficult to bring off or to turn into hits). In attempting to meld the stories together and give them some sketchy coherence, the movie basically becomes an extended framing device that’s larger than any of the stories in it.” Variety


The US release is PG-13, however, British censors the BBFC inexplicably rated the film ’15’ for:

“A scene of brief violence shows a boy being stabbed through the chest with a pitchfork. There are also moderate sex references including a reference to one of the teenagers “losing a stiffy”. There are undetailed references to a woman hanging herself, and use of mild bad language.”

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