★★★½ | Zach Hester
From the moment you see the first monster in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, you can see creature connoisseur Guillermo Del Toro’s fingerprints all across the screen.
The film, which is based on the book series by Alvin Schwartz, is directed by Andre Ovredal and follows a group of teenagers who take a mysterious storybook which has the power to bring its terrifying stories to life. As the teens are forced to face their fears through the nightmarish tales that manifest within the book, tensions stay high in what many are calling “the perfect entry-level horror movie.”
The original collection of stories is fantastic. Let’s just get that out there. So like many others, I was skeptical of how the filmmakers could combine these incredibly short stories (sometimes they’re as short as 1 or 2 pages) into a cohesive film. However, it works. Each time a story is told, er…manifests in the book, it’s thrilling, providing plenty of jump scares and edge-of-your-seat moments.
The best part of the film has to be its effects. A Del Toro film staple is practical effects for the many monsters he’s created over the years. While this film does employ some CGI, it’s apparently “90 percent” practical effects. This dedication allows the film to feel much more real as the creatures created not only look exceptional compared to the original illustrations by Stephen Gammell, but actually feel like they’re standing there in front of the actors.
The assessment of this film an “entry-level horror movie” or “gateway horror movie for kids” should not be a slight against this film. It’s easy to see how this movie could be a perfect introduction for younger horror fans, due to the lack of nudity, loose profanity and other tropes associated with traditional scary movies. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is a very fun time that will leave viewers hoping they don’t hear “who took my toe?” when they climb into bed at night after watching it.