During this year’s San Diego Comic Con, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark hosted it’s own panel to reveal a new poster for the “Jangly Man” and discuss the upcoming film. At one point producer Guillermo del Toro got a bit sentimental as he recalled the first time he saw Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark in a bookstore. He remembered falling in love with the campfire structure of Alvin Schwartz’s tales, the unsettling aura of Stephen Gammell’s illustrations and the creepy simplicity of it all.
Guillermo del Toro’s story reminded me of my first interaction with the Scary Stories books. I found my first copy in my catholic school’s library and was promptly scolded for freaking my classmates out with that infamous picture of The Pale Lady. You know the one.
Needless to say my personal expectations for the film adaption were high. As were the expectations of plenty others. But it was worth the wait. That’s right, guys. It’s here. At long, long last, the highly anticipated Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark has finally arrived. It’s already doing well with older and younger generations of horror lovers, alike. The story follows a group of teens that, one night, Halloween night of all nights, stumble into Mill Valley’s local haunted house. The home once belonged to the Bellows family whose twisted infamy is apparent from the teaser trailers. Inside, the group finds a book that once belonged to young Sarah Bellows, who turned her tortured life and horrible secrets into a tome of scary stories. Things are fine at first. Until a series of strange occurrences reveal that these stories have found a way of becoming all too real.
Now, call me swayed, but Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is one of the few movies (of 2019) that I can positively say was worth all the hype. There’s a reason it took a long time for anyone to touch this series. And the wait was well worth it, as I found it to be a breeding ground for the next generation of horror, while also paying tribute to the book’s fans. It’s hard to remember the last time a movie did so well with a pre-established story. It’s a nostalgic morsel that will no doubt become a new seasonal favorite along flicks like Halloween and Friday the 13th. At least it will be in my house.
Though you may want to be careful, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark really stretches that PG-13 rating to it’s limit. Between the genuinely unsettling creatures, grisly violence, and mildly traumatizing events, you may want to leave the kiddies at home. It will probably be more enjoyable that way. I know I had a ball. Especially when we got to meet the Jangly Man. Now, when I first caught wind that del Toro and director André Øvredal created a whole new monster for the film, I wasn’t sure how I felt. Even with such a promising name like The Jangly Man.
So, imagine my surprise when Mr. Jangly turned out to be the best part of the movie. The film is at its scariest whenever this contorting creature is in hot pursuit. With the ability to dismember it’s own body, put it back together and bend itself into back breaking angles, The Jangly Man is a monster movie lover’s dream. He’s also the most aggressive creature of the bunch. Which was refreshing as his contemporaries, Harold, The Pale Lady, The Big Toe, The Red Spot were silent but deadly entities that were swift in pursuit of their victims. The Jangly Man is on a whole different level. He easily makes all the stabbing, dragging under beds, and weird absorbing abilities look like child’s play. Gotta save the best for last, right?
Overall, I found Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark to be a skillfully crafted, masterfully executed, deeply unsettling, take on a beloved story that absolutely did the book series justice. I honestly have no complaints here. No movie is perfect though Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark comes pretty damn close. The cherry on top of it all came in the form of the movie’s ending, which strongly hinted at a possible sequel. Three books means three movies perhaps? If that is the case I welcome it with open arms as I proclaim “Sarah Bellows, tell me another scary story!”
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is currently playing in theaters everywhere in the US. Check it out as soon as possible.
Wicked Rating: 9/10
Director(s): André Øvredal
Writer(s): Guillermo del Toro, Dan Hageman, John August, Kevin Hageman, Marcus Dunstan, and Patrick Melton
Stars: Zoe Margaret Colletti, Austin Abrams, Natalie Ganzhorn, Gabriel Rush, Michael Garza and Austin Zajur
Release: Now Playing
Studio/ Production Co: CBS Films, Entertainment One
Length: 1 Hour and 51 Minutes
Sub-Genre: Children’s Horror