Movie Review: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)

Synopsis: On Halloween in 1968, Stella, Auggie and Chuck show their new friend, Ramon, an abandoned mansion that once belonged to one of their town's founding families, the Bellows. When Stella finds a book of hand-written stories in a secret room, she decides to bring it home with her. This, in turn, angers the spirit of Sarah Bellow's, the family's abused daughter. One-by-one, Stella's friends become endangered as Sarah adds new stories to her book.



Review: While I understand the need to attract younger audiences to the movie theater, I fully believe the new PG-13 standard has ruined potentially memorable horror films. Sadly, this movie, which I mostly watched to appease my 15-year-old, is a film that falls into that category.

Overall, I thought the premise of this movie was a good one. Yes, there was some familiarity with it. But, the idea of a ghost that enacts revenge via terrifying fantasies was intriguing. In fact, had it been done correctly, it had the potential to be right up there with movies like Creepshow. Unfortunately, since the movie had to be cleaned up to allow younger kids to watch it, the overall film just fell a bit flat, at least in my opinion.

One of the biggest problems, I think, was the fact the movie was actually pretty darn predictable. I was able to predict both the order and the cause of the first three deaths in the film long before they happened as well as the way to ultimately defeat Sarah (Kathleen Pollard). I've said this a hundred times before, but predictable STILL doesn't equal scary.

I'm also getting a little fed up with horror movies going out of their way to victimize the main antagonist. In this case, Sarah was tortured by her family because she wanted to tell the town about their mill poisoning the water supply. Just once, can't a movie just have an antagonist who kills people for no other reason than just being evil?

To be fair, Sarah's "stories" actually weren't too terrible. In fact, there were a couple that had even my wife (who is usually as unaffected as I am when it comes to horror films) squirming a bit. The movie, however, sabotaged that effort by trying to make them part of a much larger and predictable plot, especially since a couple of the later ones only loosely fit the overall narrative and seemed almost forced. Had the writers simply focused on the stories themselves (much like Creepshow did), I think it would have been a considerably better film.

Final Opinion: There was potential. But, if the filmmakers would have abandoned the narrative and shot for an "R" rating, I feel this would have been a considerably better movie.

My Grade: C

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