Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark – Film Review

Setting back to 1981, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark was first published as a small book series for children filled with frightening stories, which has now been made into a live-action teen horror flick. The film focuses around Stella Nicholls (Zoe Margaret Colletti), a young teen with a passion for horror and her two close school friends Chuck Steinberg (Ausin Zajur) and Auggie Hilderbrandt (Gabriel Rush).

While the three friends spend Halloween trick or treating, they decided to pull a prank on the school bully, Tommy (Austin Abrams) leaving him in a rage as he chases after the trio till they run into a town visitor, Ramón Morales (Michael Garza) where he helps hide the young teens from Tommy and his crew. Not wasting a minute of Halloween, Stella suggests for the group to check out the haunted house once belonging to the Bellows family, which the small town knew for their dark history.

While exploring the abandon house, Stella and Ramón come across a room in the basement which once belonged to Sarah Bellow. Stella fills everyone in on the myth that Sarah was locked away from the world by her family, and read scary stories to kids who came by the house to get a peep of what Sarah looked like. Coming across a bookshelf, Stella finds a book once owned by Sarah which is full of stories and peruses to take it with her as she exits the abandon house.

Arriving home shortly after, Stella begins to skim through the book and notices half of the book has blank pages. As Stella continues to look through the stories, she discovers the last story has been freshly written as the ink appears to be wet. Quickly learning the book is writing horror stories that are causing harm to everyone who trespassed inside the house, the group of friends must find an end before it’s too late and their story has been told. 

Entering this film, there wasn’t a lot I knew on the franchise except that it was once a kids novel. After watching it, I was curious to know if the film was anything like the novels as I found the whole story to be quite terrifying, especially for a children’s story.

In some scenes it almost felt like there should’ve been more backstory explained, such as Stella’s mother who is mentioned a couple of times who abandoned Stella and her father. It was almost pointless mentioning the mother as there was no strong connection to the rest of the movie and I believe it would’ve been best left out. Without reading the novel, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark almost made it look like it was explaining why a father is looking after a child without a mother figure – which shouldn’t matter.

Zoe Margaret Colletti did a great job as the leading actress, but felt I felt a scene towards the end wasn’t her strongest. Without giving anything away, there’s a scene where Stella has to give a speech to help her friends and it just wasn’t very strong or believable.

Overall, I enjoyed Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, but I felt like it could’ve been better if the audience target was for adults, adding more scare and gore. The nightmare monsters that came out of the stories were freakish looking and were my favourite part of the film. The special effects were brilliant and added that extra spooky detailed look. I would recommend this film to fans of the popular novel, and audience who enjoy a light horror.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is in cinemas across Australia from September 26.

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