“I’m afraid that we woke something up,” says Stella (Zoe Margaret Colletti) to her remaining friends after two teenagers – one of whom was her best friend – mysteriously disappear in the horror film, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.
It’s October 31, 1968 and in the small town of Mill Valley, Stella and her two best/only friends – Auggie (Gabriel Rush) and Chuck (Austin Zajur) – set out to spend Halloween together. Running away from the town bully, Tommy (Austin Abrams), they meet Ramon (Michael Garza) who Stella instantly likes. She suggests they all go check out the local haunted house…because isn’t that what you always do with a new friend?
The house is an old boarded-up mansion owned by the family that helped found the town. While exploring the creepy and cobwebbed estate, Stella tells the group the story of the Bellows family and how they kept young Sarah Bellows locked up in a room and had her face removed from all the family portraits. Children would come to tease or try to get a glimpse of her, and Sarah would tell them scary stories through a wall. The legend is the children would soon disappear after listening to her creepy tales.
While exploring the mansion, Stella comes across the old book Sarah wrote her scary stories in. She secretly takes the book and later at home starts reading it. As she’s reading, she notices a new story being mysteriously written in blood about Tommy.
The following day she hears that Tommy has disappeared. Stella and her friends soon realize they’ve angered Sarah’s ghost. They also realize Sarah’s going to write a scary story for each of them that will lead to them disappearing forever.
Inspired by a collection of short horror stories, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark tries to be a creepy and suspenseful ghost story reminiscent of such films as Final Destination and ParaNorman but falls short on chills and scares. Instead of being an effective anthology film, the script’s written to link all the separate stories together by creating the Bellows family legend and focusing on a group of teenagers.
The cast of young newcomers fail to impress, with the exception of Zoe Margaret Colletti. Colletti delivers an effective performance as Stella, the young girl who’s a little obsessed with the Bellows legend until she realizes she and her friends are being targeted by a vengeful ghost. Colletti’s is the only notable performance in the film.
The biggest problem with the film are the scenes in which the teenagers are being stalked by an evil force (including a creepy scarecrow or a corpse looking for its toe). These scenes, although well-crafted, lack any real sense of dread, suspense, or terror.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark fails to effectively bring to the big screen the creepy and heart-pounding tales which have both entertained and terrified children.
MPAA Rating: N/R
Release Date: August 9, 2019
Running Time: 120 minutes
Directed By: André Øvredal