Based on the novel of the same name, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is about a group of teenagers who discover a storybook, written by a tortured girl, and accidentally active the book’s evil power. While trying to find a way to stop the book and save themselves, the kids take turns facing their doom.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is essentially what the recent Goosebumps films are, but for an older teenage demographic rather than family-friendly; both similar plot structures, and similar adaptation sources (series of stories to introduce younger audiences to the horror genre) support this comparison. It isn’t a complete horror show, that will be It: Chapter 2’s job soon, but that isn’t to say the film isn’t relatively spooky either. The monsters are ugly, they’re creepy, and they only grow increasingly freaky as the film develops; Guillermo Del Toro’s influence, known for creating warped, fantastical monsters, is clearly present. And the kid actors are solid, they don’t detract from the film at all.
Pg-13 horror movies may benefit from young teenagers padding their box office numbers, but will always have a ceiling on their potential as a result of their rating. The horror genre’s best films push their characters and situations to the limit, evoking a lasting sense of dread among the audience, and an R-rating makes that possible. Despite Scary Stories being limited by its pg-13 rating, it still manages to push its own ceiling with an effective use of minimalism in its scares and creepy imagery. There’s hardly a dull moment, and with a sequel being teased at the end, assuming the second film can capitalize on the creature-feature slant the way its predecessor did, there are more good times ahead. The monsters are what will remain in your mind, and I believe Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark will be a good rental for the upcoming Halloween season. 7/10