Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is a fun little horror movie, and a solid choice for those seeking bloodless scares. As I was watching it, I was reminded of the 90’s TV series Are You Afraid of the Dark? and Goosebumps. Both were billed as horror for kids, had fairly lackluster writing at times, but also had some really freaky stuff that’d mess with most adults just as easily as children. If you grew up with either of those, this will give you a good dose of nostalgia along with more than a few genuine frights. If you didn’t, the latter should suffice.
The film follows a group of kids who incur that wrath of a ghost with the ability to bring spooky tales to life. The actors playing those children are mostly passable (definitely not the best), but some of their dialogue is pretty terrible, even cringeworthy. A great example: when the main protagonist said “you don’t read the book, the book reads you.”
Luckily, the kids are usually at their best when terrified, which is a state most of them are in pretty much the entire movie, and for good reason. Almost all of the big monsters in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark are created through practical effects, and are quite frightening. Some of the biggest moments of terror come from jump scares, but they’re the right kind of jump scare. The tension is built well, and it helps as it all cuts back and forth between someone frantically reading the story in the ghost’s book and the subject of that story desperately doing everything they can to escape. The first one, which involves an insanely unsettling scarecrow, was probably my favorite. Even the weakest one, which might’ve been one of the only two that used any digital effects, was still pretty great.
However, the most haunting, and probably the most memorable parts of Scary Stories to Tell in The Dark were the ways a couple of those stories ended. I’m going to tiptoe around here to avoid spoilers, but there are a couple characters’ fates that I’m pretty sure would’ve really, really wigged me out if I’d seen them when I was a kid.
I don’t see Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark knocking anyone’s socks off, but it’s still a solid horror flick thanks to its terrific monsters and well-crafted scares. It’s fun, gore-free, scary, and a pretty good time overall.