A bunch of years ago HarperCollins got the not so bright idea to release an updated version of Alvin Schwartz’s classic SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK, replacing Stephen Gammell’s haunting illustrations with less disturbing imagery. To say it didn’t go over too well with fans of the book is putting it lightly. In some ways, the new movie based on the books can almost be taken as a vehement apology that anyone anywhere might underestimate the value of Gammell’s spooky work. Director Andre Ovredal and producer Guillermo del Toro wisely decide to employ Gammell’s unforgettable images as the main inspiration and they are lovingly recreated down to the last detail. In fact, it could be said that the powerful images outweigh the stories themselves at times but what SCARY STORIES may be missing in the characterization department it makes up for in sheer autumnal atmosphere. It seems any space left between Schwartz’s tales and Gammell’s art are plastered in by honoring the works of Ray Bradbury (THE HALLOWEEN TREE, SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES). You can almost smell the burning leaves on a cooler breeze and that’s just what the doctor ordered in the dog days of summer.
SSTTITD invites us to the small town of Mill Valley circa 1968 and introduces us to Stella, Auggie
Warm and fuzzy nostalgia abounds but admirably this is not a movie that is afraid to show the darker underbelly of
If I have any complaints it’s that things move along at too fast a clip and we’re never really allowed to learn too much about the character’s home life or everyday interactions. We tend to lose some sense of mystery as the trio catches on to what’s happening without a moment of logical skepticism. On the other hand, I have a feeling the pacing issue will only pose a problem for oldsters like me raised on seventies films and that the frenzied speed may be just fine for the central audience this PG-rated flick is courting. I should say too that the fate of one of the characters left a bad taste in my mouth but it’s kind of hard not to give this good-natured flick the benefit of the doubt. All in all, it’s a pretty neat trick to find a way to fuse a bunch of slight stories into a cohesive ode to everybody’s favorite season. If nothing else, SCARY STORIES stands as a harbinger that summer is nearly done and Halloween is right around the corner– that’s a message I’m not going to complain about.