Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark movie cast: Zoe Margaret Colletti, Michael Garza, Gabriel Rush, Austin Zajur, Natalie Ganzhorn
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark movie director: André Øvredal
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark movie rating: 1.5 stars
If the Guillermo del Toro connection as co-screenwriter and producer is not enough to draw you to Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, how can we resist this: Alvin Schwartz’s three books of short stories for children on which this film is based carried nightmarish illustrations that made them America’s most frequently challenged series for inclusion in school libraries.
But don’t raise your expectations too high. Assembled into one story line about a haunted house, a girl kept imprisoned within, who told stories which killed everyone who heard them, the film sputters to life in patches, grabs you with its first few tales, and then lets the scare fizzle out too fast and too much. Besides, separate ghosts haunting separate stories may have worked as a compilation in a book, but assembled together into one story line, they make little sense or enough chill.
Mounting it against Richard Nixon’s re-election as President, as the drumbeats of the Vietnam War roll on, seems a desperate allusion to some of the real-life nightmares haunting America in 1968. As the story spirals out of control, there are even more attempts to link it to reality, in the casual racism faced by a Mexican, and in questions over the veracity of news one hears.
But really, if director Øvredal’s film works at any level at all, it is thanks to Colletti as the dauntless teenager driving it. In her unbecoming glasses and freckles, Colletti’s Stella is a girl with enough courage and heart to drive back any monster, not needing to be made pretty or to be saved by any boy.
When the boys do try, they can barely keep pace, even in portraying the tension that underlines any good horror flick.