The shadow of the Bellows family has loomed large in the small town of Mill Valley for generations. It's in a mansion that young Sarah Bellows turns her tortured life and horrible secrets into a series of scary stories. These terrifying tales soon have a way of becoming all too real for a group of unsuspecting teens who stumble upon Sarah's spooky home.
This is one I have been looking forward to watching ever since I first heard about the possibility of it being made, even before I saw the incredible series of trailers. ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’ sets itself up to be a franchise horror series, only giving us a glimpse at a handful of stories from the iconic book series before leaving the ending open for sequels. It’s apparent that a lot of care went into creating this movie and that the filmmakers wanted to stay true to the material from which it was derived. They did, however, combine two stories from the book into one in this movie – I’ll let you figure out which two.
‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’ is a horror movie that sucks you in and keeps your mind racing in anticipation of what ‘Scary Story’ will happen next. In between the ‘Scary Story’ scenes, I found myself wanting the movie to “hurry up” and get to the next story, before reminding myself that plot and timing are equally important. Perhaps it was just my inner child being impatient after seeing the stories that kept me up at night over 20 years ago finally brought to life on screen.
If I had to find one fault in the movie I would have to say that overall it was just too dark. I’m not talking about the themes being too grim or the plot being too horrific – this is a horror movie; I expect those things – I am talking about the actual lighting, or lack-thereof, used in the making of the movie. I don’t know if it was just the theater at which I watched the movie or the movie itself, but most of the scenes were almost too dark to tell what was going on. There were several scenes that had me thinking to myself, “Well, I hope I’m not supposed to know what’s happening right now because I can’t see shit.” There are ways to depict darkness in a scene that still enables the audience to get a sense of what’s in it. The creators of the “Insidious” franchise use those methods very effectively. Here it felt like I was being left out of the story, afraid I would miss an important plot detail.
Possible spoiler ahead: Speaking of missing plot details, was anyone else confused as to why Sarah Bellows’ family was poisoning the well water with mercury? To me, it seemed as if that was a huge piece of information that just wasn’t included in the movie. I understand the ending was meant to set up future sequels, but that bit of information should have been included, even if we’re going to revisit that plot in a future film.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, and I completely support the decision to keep this a PG-13 horror movie. Having an R-rating could have enabled the filmmakers to include much more graphic scenes, but keeping it PG-13 forced them to develop the suspense instead. I love that. After all, the books I grew up reading when I was 7-years-old scared me through suspenseful storytelling coupled with horrific (but not grossly violent) imagery.
This movie is…
Definitely one to watch with friends, and especially enjoyable if you read the books first.
Cheers and goodnight.