Think about darkness… if a noise creaks, your imagination takes over… termites perhaps? Or maybe a burglar? Nothing will be known for certain unless you leave the comfortable bed to turn a light on, maneuvering around things on the floor on the way. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark sounds like it would take on an anthology film format like Creepshow and Twilight Zone. It sounds like the key experience to feel sucked into exactly what makes the dark so scary. Wrong. It instead imitates the exact same genre familiarity without taking any creative risks, which is too bad, because if this was an anthology film, it would be more than another “young victims get killed off one by one until the virgin is left” kind of plot.
The sloppy production team behind this horrific horror picture show does nothing but mock genuinely good films of the genre. The first noticeable disregard to common sense is the white-fresh paper of the very old possessed book, then gets even lamer when the teenage leads access highly confidential city records without problem. Even when it tries to get scary, atrocious CGI doesn’t make a series of severed limbs reattaching themselves easy to overlook in the cheap finale. Director André Øvredal’s lack of control results in all logic being accidentally ridiculous, not over-the-top satirical like the unrealistic violence in Kill Bill. Any of its attempted creative ideas fall flat on passing as healthy art for the common viewer, as it relies on the evil book for the convenience of breezing past details with lazy dialogue.
At least the “creepy” scenes deliver okay, the best of them featuring a deformed woman who slowly creeps toward you down a hospital hallway; each edit cut she moves closer and closer like the overly-familiar fear of being followed, enough to help you overlook the thoughtless conversations in every other scene. It’s not worth it to sit through the unmanageable scenes though for this one moment, since nobody who oversaw auditions in the pre-production process said anything about how those who made the cast have no talent.
Zoe Margaret Colletti is one of the worst cast members, as her eyes never have a sign of terror when they are supposed to; she instead just sounds passive, reliant on a warm porch light to set the happy mood instead of bringing out life from her own presence. The other kids in the movie go through personal problems, including dysfunctional families and *gasp* zits! That’s it really, any other real problems are left out. It does attempt to chuck in political overtones with a radio that exclaims, “say no to war,” and many shots of Richard Nixon on TV. But none of these visuals affect the narrative in any way whatsoever, especially not the thought process of Zoe’s character, Stella.
It does attempt to look impressive by incorporating jump-scares, some of them just fake-outs, and one of them an attempt to quietly build up to the “mother of all jump-scares,” but all these attempts flop. There are problems in all other horror scenes too, one of them has a toe inside a soup, which succeeds at being gross, but is otherwise empty of any lasting impression besides the visual of clawed floorboards under someone’s bed leading to a wall.
The production crew should have taken notes from their costume designer Ruth Myers (L.A. Confidential) for inspiration. One boy wears a wonderfully pathetic Spider-man costume for Halloween (courtesy of mom), and it captures the tone the film should have had: self-aware in how much it stretches from being what is expected with a large aura of goofiness. Instead, it goes for dead serious but is goofy by mistake. One laughable attack on a blonde girl matches said level of ridiculous misinterpretation, with spiders intending gross reactions out of everyone but winds up getting the expected reaction only out of those with arachnophobia.
But here’s the dumbest part: the feature is bookended with monologues on why stories craft us, which is not insightful, but ironic, because the message is attached to something with mere entertainment in mind, not philosophy. Trust me, I know about the philosophy of film, and books.
There was a time when somebody from Google+ told me to give up reviewing movies because he didn’t like my bad review on the Marvel fan community, others wrote nasty comments that were far from constructive (or free of typos). Many of these comments were saying that “all film is subjective, there’s no way to judge what makes art good or bad.” I recently started reading a book called, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, which focuses on how individuals claim that everything’s subjective and nothing is true. What I’ve learned from reviewing movies is that, like religion, there can only be one truth, not everything can be true, as so many claims directly contradict each other. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark has no idea about those realities of literature, it’s just a piece of Play-Doh that molded itself into the shape of a puzzle piece to try and fit in. Since it can’t do what it should have done all along, it can’t make your skin crawl once the lights boom out.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
Millican, Josh. “Full Synopsis for SCARY STORIES TO SHARE IN THE DARK Emerges Following Super Bowl Teasers.” Digital image. DreadCentral. 4 Feb 2019. Web. <https://www.dreadcentral.com/news/288782/full-synopsis-for-scary-stories-to-share-in-the-dark-emerges-following-super-bowl-teasers/>.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. CBS Films. Web. <https://www.scarystoriestotellinthedark.com/>.