"Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" Is Just Kind of Meh

The scary story parts are very fun and genuinely pretty scary. The rest...meh.


Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is at its best when it stays true to its namesake by...y'know, telling scary stories in the dark (assuming you're watching in a movie theater, at least).

Based on the classic children's horror anthology of the same name, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark follows Stella (Zoe Colleti), a geeky teenager obsessed with horror stories, and her three friends, Auggie, Chuck, and Ramón. On Halloween night in 1968 (yes, this is a period piece), the group decides to go check out the supposedly haunted Bellows House (after goofing on town bully Tommy Milner by throwing actual human feces into his car).

There, Stella finds a book of scary stories that belonged to Sarah Bellows, the youngest daughter of the Bellows family who, as legend has it, murdered children in mysterious ways. Stella, being a smart girl who doesn't want to be victimized by a vengeful ghost, leaves the book where it is and returns to safety. Just kidding, she takes the book, which immediately starts self-writing new scary stories about her friends, each of which comes true. Now, if Stella wants to save her friends, she needs to solve the mystery of Sarah Bellow's death.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark can be divided into two core elements: the scary story scenes and every other part of the movie.

The scary story parts are very fun and genuinely pretty scary. Director André Øvredal (Trollhunter) really stretches his chops here, using claustrophobic camera work and expert timing to construct tense horror scenes, bringing the short stories from original anthology to life. Like any good anthology, these horror scenes practically stand on their own, with "The Pale Lady" being the top standout. "The Red Spot" is pretty grotesque, too.

Then there's everything else, and that's where Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark unfortunately starts to fall apart. The characters, the framework, and the narrative all feel like excess. Considering those are the bulk of the movie, watching it often feels like a slog through shoddy teen dialogue in order to reach the next anthology sketch.

scary stories to tell in the dark movie She has Albinism. Lionsgate

While nobody is watching Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark for finely crafted character drama, the teens are practically cardboard "loser" stereotypes ripped from any '90s teen movie. The young actors do a fine enough job with the material they're given, but most scenes boil down to generic teen sleuthing. The character arcs, as far as they exist, feel jackhammered in. Stella, for instance, blames herself for her mother abandoning her when she was a kid. This factors in...somehow?

More importantly, the Sarah Bellows mystery, which serves as the framing device for all the scary stories, doesn't really work either. Early on, we hear the legend that Sarah Bellows was kept locked in the basement, abused and tortured by her wealthy family for being albino or something. After the spooky stories start, the teens spend a ton of time trying to figure out what really happened in their quest to stop Sarah Bellows. Then, in the end, it turns out that Sarah Bellows is a vengeful spirit because *drumroll* her family abused and tortured her for being albino or something. In essence, we know the ghost's motive the entire time, which makes the "mystery" kind of unnecessary.

On top of that, the movie forces in a whole lot of Richard Nixon imagery set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War. Maybe someone with a film degree (me) could try to argue that Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is trying to make some kind of statement about how Nixon is even scarier than any of the fictional monsters (after all, this is a major point that producer Guillermo Del Toro made with his human villain in Pan's Labyrinth), but if that's what Øvredal intended, it comes across weakly. If that wasn't what he intended, this is just a movie with a whole lot of random Richard Nixon references.

For fans of the original anthology, it's great seeing some of the best scary stories come alive on-screen. But for most people, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark will simply make for a fun night out, albeit a forgettable one.

Rating: ⚡⚡⚡/5

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Horror Movie Monsters Are Less Terrible Than Sarah Sanders

These classic horror movie monsters are pretty awful, but not nearly as awful as the resigning White House Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

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At long last, Sarah Sanders―the most prolific, unabashed liar, and gaslighter to ever hold the position of White House Press Secretary―has resigned.

Perhaps two straight years of partisan treachery took a toll, even on a heart as black as Sarah's. But somehow that seems unlikely. Most probably, the creature known as "Huckabee" simply grew full on its diet of pure untruths and decided now was the time to slumber. So, in celebration of Sarah Sanders' resignation, we've compiled a list of some of cinema's most vile monsters.

It from It Follows

it follows monster RADiUS-TWC

The titular "It" from It Follows is a creature that can take the form of any person, changing at will as it walks towards its victim at a steady pace. When it catches up to its victim, it sexes them to death (usually in the form of a horrendously scarring person like the victim's mother). It would probably have a similar M.O. if It were Sarah Sanders, except instead of sex, Sanders would hold victims down and shout, "YOU'LL NEED TO ASK THE PRESIDENT ABOUT THAT" until their brains melted.

Freddy Kreuger from A Nightmare on Elm Street

Freddy Kreuger New Line Cinema

Freddy Kreuger is a sweater-donning, fedora-wearing, burnt-skin-slasher who appears in people's worst nightmares to crack one-liners and then murder them. If Freddy Kreuger were Sarah Sanders, she would still appear in people's nightmares to kill them, but she wouldn't crack any jokes because she's a miserable, humorless person.

Pennywise from It

pennywise New Line Cinema

Pennywise might usually look like a dancing clown but, in reality, after luring children in with lies and deception, it takes the form of a giant spider to eat them. Sarah Sanders already has the lies and deception down. But if Pennywise were Sarah Sanders, instead of offering kids cool red balloons and then eating them, she'd be doling out MAGA hats and inciting them to hate immigrants. She'd still be a giant spider though.

The Shark from Jaws

jaws Jaws Getty Images

The Shark from Jaws is just a really big shark. It's not evil or malicious; it's just fulfilling the biological imperative. How can anyone fault it for that? If the Shark were Sarah Sanders, though, it would still go around eating people all the time (which is expected), but then, for some reason, it would get really mad whenever anyone called it a Shark. And everyone would be like, "But you are a Shark, you're literally going around eating people." Shark Sarah would continue to feign offense as she continued her rampage.

Pinhead from Hellraiser

pinhead New World Pictures

Pinhead is an evil, extra-dimensional being called a Cenobite. He travels through a puzzle box along with the rest of his Cenobite pals and captures the soul of any human who happens to inadvertently solve the cursed puzzle. If Pinhead were Sarah Sanders, rather than being summoned through a puzzle box, she would be summoned simply by reading a Washington Post article. Her and her demonic followers would proceed to call it fake news until the article was closed. She would be very frequent and very annoying.