Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark review round-up: 'Goosebumps but for a slightly older audience'

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark has polarised critics. While some laud the director for mining 'beautifully-timed tension', others have opined on the film's 'distracting' narrative

FP Staff August 08, 2019 16:21:13 IST
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark review round-up: 'Goosebumps but for a slightly older audience'

Alvin Schwartz's horror short story series Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark has been unanimously regarded as a cultural touchstone for a generation. Hence, fans are understandably excited to witness how the series has been adapted to screen, that too bankrolled by Oscar-winning filmmaker Guillermo del Toro. Directed by André Øvredal, the film stars Zoe Colletti, Michael Garza, Gabriel Rush, Austin Abrams, Dean Norris, Gil Bellows, and Lorraine Toussaint in leading roles.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark review roundup Goosebumps but for a slightly older audience

A still from Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Twitter

Before the film storms into theatres on 9 August, take a look at what critics are saying about the movie.

Emma Stefansky of The Thrillist opines that the film "doesn't pull punches" with its horror. She writes, "Instead of creating an anthology storybook film of a few disconnected tales, the Scary Stories movie embeds them all in a single narrative arc that overcomplicates things and is, ultimately, a distraction from what makes the movie actually fun to watch."

Dread Central's Jonathan Barkan echoes Stefansky's sentiments. "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is hesitant, unsure if it is too scary for children and not scary enough for adults. While it doesn’t commit to either audience, it is still a treat for both," he says, further explaining, "The film feels itself oddly restrained, as though it wasn’t sure if it was being too scary for young kids, and therefore needed to pull back, or not scary enough for adults, so let’s make it more gruesome."

Collider's Matt Goldberg, however, disagrees. He believes that Scary Stories is "PG-13 horror at its finest." Describing the film as "Goosebumps but for a slightly older audience", he writes, "Even though Scary Stories may not have the blood and gore that people typically expect from the horror genre, Øvredal excels at wringing the maximum amount of tension within the confines of his PG-13 rating....Scary Stories manages to be terrifying without leaning heavily into violence, an impressive feat that makes the film appropriate for younger viewers looking for a good scare but guilt-free for parents who aren’t ready to show their kids something like IT."

William Bibbiani of Bloody Disgusting says that the film does have some good scenes, but there's a lot of unnecessary fluff around it. "[Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark] is an overlong, unconvincingly nostalgic framing device for several adaptations of the books’ most iconic tales. Schwartz’s stories are intact, and the influence of [Stephen] Gammell’s signature imagery is everywhere. There’s no shortage of excellent scary moments in this movie, but you’ll have to trudge through some tedium to get there."

The Spool praises the director for mining "beautifully-timed tension" in the film. "Scary Stories is less interested in immediate shocks than the cumulative effect those scares have on the mind. Reading one might startle you for a second; consumed in concert, they have the capacity to terrify. Miraculously, what looked on the outside like a disposable late-summer PG-13 scarefest ends up a thoughtful, intellectual, existentially arresting picture," the publication describes the film.

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