Movie Review: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

There is nothing quite like the scalp-tingling, goosebumps-raising chills you get when you are scared. The sudden head rush as blood pounds in your temples. The involuntary gasp. The salty tang of sweat beads on your quivering upper lip. We have all felt it, experienced it. Some of us even, well, love it. Especially if we are horror junkies equipped with such fertile imagination.

I would assume that like me you are bookworms who cling tight to nostalgia. Books were my life and when I wasn’t reading comic books I had my hands on novels. One of my favorites was the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark trilogy. The hauntingly resonating stories along with those ghastly illustrations found a dark crevice in my heart. I’d read the stories every year around Halloween, honoring the tradition of my childhood, until it faded away. Until it was announced that Guillermo Del Toro would be directing the live-action Scary Stories To Tell In the Dark! Be still my beating heart, right?

Wrong.

Imagine rushing to see the movie. Imagine having tickets for opening night, but plans falling through, then you FINALLY get them for Saturday night. You ignore the hot stifling theater and the woman next to you who is talking non-stop and coughing. Now imagine watching the movie and not being scared, but woefully unimpressed? That was my experience.

Now imagine watching the movie and not being scared, but woefully unimpressed? That was my experience.

Stella Nicholls played by Zoe Margaret Colletti, our four-eyed heroine failed to gain my support. Our mutual nerd energies did not blend. She came across as whiny and, well, dumb. I see why she did the things she did (to move along the plot), but I kept saying to myself “girl, why?” then it turned into “girl, bye”, LOL. So, we had a shaky lead and even shakier cast.

Chuck Steinberg played by Austin Zajur was clearly the comic relief. That would have been more effective if he was funnier. The first half of the film I was rolling my eyes at his one-liners, but he grew on me. Like a fungus. He did have some moments where he actually shined. And when he had to deal with the big pale woman… that was chilling. Del Toro always excels with his monsters.

Auggie Hilderbrandt played by Gabriel Rush was the sensible, logical one.  Which means he’s the most stubborn one when it comes to the evil they unleash. Too little, too late. He was kinda adorable.

Ramon Rodriguez played by Michael Garza was easily the most intriguing of this lil Scooby gang.  Mysterious, handsome, and might had a switchblade. IDK. He had more layers than the others. Also, he was the only POC in the group. So naturally, I was here for that.

Ruth Steinberg played by Natalie Ganzhorn had more heart than I realized. She just wasn’t a vapid, beauty-obsessed prom queen. And this was shown before the “red spot” obliterated her face!

Tommy Millner played by Austin Abrams was such a complete and utter tool! He played the hell out of the role. Douchey, bigoted, and ugly all conveniently rolled into a letter jacket. When I first saw him, I wanted him to die.  Thank the heavens for Harold the Scarecrow. He heard my pleas.

The special effects and the truly grotesque monsters (Gawd, they were bone-chilling) were strong enough to offset such a predictable, run-of-the-mill cast. Granted, I was not expecting Oscar-winning performances or a dialogue that kept you rapt with attention, but I did expect more. Maybe I put too much stock in the buzz surrounding the movie. Maybe I hyped it up in mind so that the inner child who would be satisfied. But there were some chills, but no thrills. So tell me a story, Sarah Bellows. A GOOD one this time.