The jump scares scream out at audiences here in director André Øvredal’s latest work, and thanks to its moody atmosphere and inventive use of classic horror film tropes, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark makes for a creepy little gem of a movie.
From the dark imaginations of Academy Award®-winner Guillermo del Toro and acclaimed director André Øvredal, based on the iconic book series, comes Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.
Adapted from the cult classic children’s horror novels written by Alvin Schwartz and illustrated by Stephen Gammell, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark brings the sinister atmosphere of the fictional town of Mill Valley, Pennsylvania to the big screen and there’s plenty to fear. Basking in the light of a classic Americana view of horror, director André Øvredal works hard to freak out audiences and he’s got plenty to work with. Øvredal has already proven himself to be an exciting new talent in the horror genre thanks to his work on the horrifying creepfest that was The Autopsy of Jane Doe, and he does a great job of bringing to life these terrifying stories for audiences with plenty of twists.
While there are plenty of monsters to be scared of here, Øvredal’s infusion of the film’s horror setting with a sense of small-town mystery and teenage alienation, adds to the magnitude of the scares and you never know what’s coming next. The director takes classic horror tropes such as the creepy scarecrow or the haunted house and finds a new direction to take them in, and with his inventive camera work and solid use of suspense he builds out a shuddering sense of terror. Heightened tension is important to Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and Øvredal uses extended pauses to build out the coming dread and shocking scares that await audiences. There are jump scares galore here and you’ll certainly feel a chill run down your spine with this one.
Walking into the creepy narrative of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark are young stars Zoe Margaret Colletti as Stella Nicholls and Michael Garza as Ramón Morales and both of these young performers form a great partnership on screen. While Colletti’s Stella is the girl with a past and a murky connection to the town’s resident evil spirit ghost, Sarah Bellows, Garza’s Ramón is the outsider lured into the creepy atmosphere of Mill Valley. Soon it becomes all too apparent that Sarah Bellows creepy stories are beginning to write themselves and both these young character are in for a severe haunting. Colletti and Garza work well to convey a growing sense of fear and paranoia as to not knowing what comes next and as an audience member, you become deeply connected to their journey to survive.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is a great exploration of the horror film and in a genre that can be so limited and confined by subgenres, this film breaks out of this. Offering up a mix of everything from the monster movie to the ghost story, the classic slasher film, and even containing references to international styles of horror such as J-horror and Giallo, this is one film that keeps you guessing with its scares. There’s also a great sense of originality to Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark via the way that its scares are explored, and watching it you feel like you haven’t seen it all before. While I won’t go into too many specifics to make sure that scares aren’t spoiled I will say that the film’s mental hospital scene was easily the scariest part of the film for me, and Øvredal’s use of suspense was unnerving to watch.
Alongside presenting a unique vision of horror, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark also examines the power of narrative storytelling and the hold over us that it can have. With a central theme of ‘stories having the power to haunt or to heal’, Øvredal explores just how important stories can be to audiences. This is seen through the film’s protagonist Stella, who dreams of being a writer, and the ghostly presence of Sarah Bellows, who acts as a malevolent shadow to her. It’s in this shadowy mirror that Øvredal examines how the will to create can lead to either good or evil choices.
If you’re seeking a good scare and are looking for something that will make you jump then Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is one film you should check out immediately….just remember to have a night light handy cause, well, you’ll need it after watching this one.
Image: Universal Pictures