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Read: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is happily entertaining

Ever wondered why it is we seem to enjoy a good fright? I don’t know why it is, but I have fond memories of hearing and sometimes retelling dark and frightening tales around campfires or by torchlight.  Sure I’d often have bad dreams, but there was something thrilling about hearing stories such as The Hairy Toe or The Severed Head. 

As a grown up, I enjoy a good mystery but the horror film genre isn’t one I’m particularly drawn to. Zombies bore me, and I don’t believe in ghosts and demons. 

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark however managed to keep my attention and give goose bumps. The film is based on a the series of books of the same name and tells the story of a group of kids who find a book of gruesome stories in a supposedly haunted house. The book was written by a girls in the 1800s who was tortured by her family. After finding the book, new stories appear which portend the gruesome disappearances and deaths of the kids. 

What I liked about the film is that it didn’t use gratuitous violence to get a reaction from the audience. In some cases the evil manifested in a scary way, but it used suspense in a very clever way. 

Mild Spoiler Alert!

One good example is a scene where one of the boys is being pursued by a monster that looks something like a pregnant woman with encephalitis. Her head is swollen and she has an extremely wide mouth and expressionless face. In some ways, she seems almost benign and cartoon like, yet she just keeps walking slowly towards him and seems to manifest no matter where he runs. 

The boy is terrified, and his end comes, not by violence, but by something quite unexpected and mesmerising. 

I think the film would have been a little lame if it hadn’t been for this particular young cast. Both individually and as an ensemble you care about what is happening to them and they managed to portray abject fear without the shrillness or stupidity I’ve seen in other horror films.  

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is a bit of lighthearted and fun movie with a few genuine scares thrown in. It ends with a mild cliff-hanger so I suspect this is the first in a series of films, and while this one is not an award-winning film by any stretch, I found it entertaining enough to want to see a sequel. 


In New Zealand Cinemas from 26 September 2019

Starring:    Zoe Colletti, Michael Garza, Gabriel Rush, Austin Zajur, Natalie Ganzhorn, Austin Abrams, Dean Norris, Gil Bellows, Lorraine Toussaint 

Directed by: André Øvredal

107 Minutes


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