Film Review: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark – 7/10

‘You don’t read the book. It reads you…’

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In recent years, horror has taken a turn away from old fashioned monster movies, instead focusing on either the allegorical or the downright disturbing. And the genre is mostly all the better for it. As we approach Halloween however, it is quite comforting to know there is still a place for a proper Halloween movie.

The clumsily titled Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is a like a checklist of horror cliches. Haunted houses, vengeful spirits, unspeakable monsters – all the greatest hits. While André Øvredal’s film veers dangerously between homage and rip off, it mostly hits the right notes, even if the beats are somewhat predictable.

A group of teens break into a supposedly haunted house on Halloween night where they discover a book of scary stories written by a girl who was once cruelly imprisoned in the basement there. I don’t know much, for example I recently found out to my detriment that if you buy a new car it wont come with a full tank of petrol (shout out to the nice Polish man who drove me to a garage), but I do know horror. And I especially know that if a group of teenagers find an old book in a haunted house, they should leave that shit alone.

Of course, they don’t leave it alone and soon the stories began to not only come true, but to write themselves. This evokes another strong horror tradition in the shape of the anthology, something that has come roaring back in recent years with reboots for The Twilight Zone and Creepshow as well in countless other shows and movies, as varied as V/H/S, Two Sentence Horror Stories, and Channel Zero. As ever with the anthology format, some stories are better than others, but when Scary Stories… is good, it’s really good.

Sure, this movie seems very tame in comparison to stuff like Mother and Hereditary, although the spider scene was pretty gruesome, but there is a place for cheesy horror and Scary Stories… is an enjoyable and harmless slice of escapism that is perfect for the season. Sometimes it is nice to leave a horror film without feeling emotionally eviscerated.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark does exactly what it promises. No more, no less. And my advice to any thrillseekers out there, if you happen across an old book in a dilapidated, derelict house this Halloween… just leave it where it is for chrissakes.

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