I’m thankful to the first Goosebumps movie for two things: 1) being a very fun movie that doesn’t insult its young target audience by making everything hunky-dory, and 2) without it, I’m not completely sure we get this adaptation of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.
And, before I get further into this: I somehow didn’t grow up terrified by this collection of stories. Neither the art nor the fiction, both of which I hear were great. But, man, I was always watching bootleg copies of Faces of Death, and running around graveyards.
Too? I’m glad, now, that I never read it. Not because I found plenty of other horror, but because then I might have gone into this movie with expectations, with favorite stories or scenes, with certain characters and monsters I considered too hallowed to water down by making them fit into some larger story. Instead, this was all new to me.
Too? What I WAS kind of halfway expecting, it was an anthology movie. I mean, what else could an adaptation of short stories be, right? I was wrong. As with Goosebumps, which was rolling a lot of short novels togethers, this . . . it didn’t so much eschew the anthology-convention of the wraparound, the frame story ‘enabling’ all these—everybody knows what I’m talking about here, yes?—as it built it in. Yes, we do process from story to story, but it’s built into the story so organically that instead of feeling like stuff arbitrarily side-by-side, it feels like stories that organically grew up from the same soil, maybe even on the same dark stalk. And [spoiler spoiler spoiler, be wary, look away], unlike Monster House, say (which admittedly had a much younger target audience, and is nothing but a good time as well), at the end all the dead people get undeaded. The mortal stakes here, they’re a hundred percent real, and they don’t just chew up the people you EXPECT to die in a horror movie. They’re indiscriminate, even taking people we like. And that’s pretty cool.
So, to sum up this not-really-a-review (where’s the synopsis? where’s the rating?), Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is a celebration of all things horror. It’s Halloween, and spooks and monsters are on the roam, and they’re hungry, and—surprise—there’s even some heart to it all. And it’s not remotely hunky-dory safe. Really, this is a Jumanji kind of build, just, with seriously mortal, pretty creepy stakes (okay, and maybe a touch of Evil Dead/Necronomicony kind of stuff, just, via Todd and the Book of Pure Evil).
That translates to nearly two hours of really good horror. Or, to say it different: it’s movies like this that are why I pay my money over at the box office. I mean, sure, all my money this time was spent at concession—press screening (thanks, Tina)—but still, it was an hour drive, and time is money. But I’d have driven twice as far for Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. And, once it opens for real*, I’ll be going back, others in tow.
Halloween starts now.
* oh, this seemingly early release date: good positioning, yes? The third season of Stranger Things is still in the waters, but the titan on this seasons landscape, It part 2, isn’t on scene to trample the rest of the horror offerings yet, but it’s trailer is already circulating, whetting appetites, stoking fires. This, now, is pretty much the prime time