Review: “Stories” Falls Short on Grownup Scares

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Directed by Andre Ovredal

In Theaters


For ‘80s and ‘90s kids, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark were must-own books. I had all three original books complete with the original artwork, up until some point when my teenaged self sold them at a yard sale.


Recently I replaced the books, and it’s interesting to revisit the stories, which are built around a simplistic style of storytelling. Most of them are no more than a page long, and not much is known beyond the character’s name and their demise.


The original books were simple, written for kids in such a way that they were meant to be read aloud around the campfire. These were not sweeping tales, epics, or full worlds. Without the original artwork of immersive ink drawings that captured readers’ imaginations, the series probably would have faded in popularity instead of taking hold of our psyches.


Taking this series of unconnected short stories and making them into a movie isn’t a simple task. We’re not working with well-rounded Stephen King style characters, but with these little chunks and nuggets about cursed individuals. It’s no surprise that the movie version of Scary Stories can only lean on the source material so much.


Maintaining a PG-13 rating and shying from blood and most graphic content, the primary goal of the flick is in bringing those ink drawing monsters to the big screen. The vast majority of the special effects and monsters are practical—there is very little CGI at play here. They are grounded in reality and grounded in the source material. The shining stars of the film are unquestionably the monsters.


I walked out of the theater wishing the stories would have been presented in more of an anthology format, something like a grownup Are You Afraid of the Dark? Instead, it feels like part of the Stranger Things universe. The movie centers on kids going up against the supernatural, and I was hoping for less Goosebumps and more Tales from the Crypt.


Logically, those creative choices make sense—the source material was written for children. But as an adult, I had hoped for a little more.

– Nikki Hedrick


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