Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark Review | Escape to the Movies

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark Review | Escape to the Movies

[exhales] Okay, okay. [exhales] You can do this. You can do this. You can do this. [exhales] Okay. You’re a grown ass man. You’re a grown ass man. You can do this. You can do this. You can do this. [breathing heavily] Just a series of children’s books. Just a series of children’s books. You can do this. There’s nothing actually scary about this. These are campfire stories, heard them a million times. Mostly public domain. There is nothing they can put in this movie that’s going to scare ya’. Nothing at all. You were scared in grade school. Not scared now. Scared in High School. Not scared now. Certainly not like they are going to find the one fucking thing in there, that still genuinely terrifies you to your very core. [thunder] [small yell] No. Fuck no. No. Not. No. Not. NO! Someone else. Get someone– I need the money. You need the money. You need the money. I actually really do need the money. So, this is a strange movie, because its kind of a strange thing to try and adapt into a movie in the first place. If you’re not familiar (which, I feel like
maybe if you weren’t a late Gen-X or early-Millennial in grade school United States in the 80s and 90s, maybe you aren’t?) “Scary Scary Stories To Tell In the Dark”
was a trilogy of children’s books by Alvin Schwartz where he basically collected his
own rewritten variations on old campfire ghost stories and urban legends and spooky folklore
– just “different enough” versions of things like “The call is coming from inside the house,”
“The other driver was trying to warn you about the guy hiding in your backseat,” “That chic
you met last night was a ghost,” that kind of thing. Most of them were suitably creepy, a few were
especially memorable, one or two were borderline super-gruesome which gave the whole thing
a sense of the forbidden and taboo… they use to try and ban this all the time, but if you ask people who remember them the near-universal
thing that stuck in everyone’s heads was the Nightmarish, often outright surreal and
occasionally only vaguely connected to the story in question illustrations by Stephen
Gammell, which were… I’m not even sure how to describe this st-
Fucking hell! – Stop! Putting! That one! Up there! …I mean it! So, blockbuster nostalgia property, but… how
do you bang together a movie out of a couple dozen extremely well-worn stories not connected
to one another and most meant to be live-read over the course of like two minutes at a sleepover with
the (somewhat narrow?) target audience of kids “Exactly too old for R.L. Stine but exactly
too young for Eli Roth?” In this case, they went with “the Goosebumps
movie, but darker, not funny and with a liberal glaze of off-brand Stephen King pastiche.” Set in the small town of Definitely Not Just
Derry in 1968 over the week between Halloween and the impending election of President Richard
Nixon – …spoiler warning, I guess? “May death come quickly to his enemies.” [woman laughing] The story involves a group of local misfit teenagers
who, while hiding from some bullies in the local “Do Not Go In There” creepy old house
on the edge of town discover a cursed book of ghost stories supposedly composed by the
town’s local urban legend – the supposedly child-killing homebound mad daughter of the
now deceased founding family. Now awoken, the book unleashes a handful of
the most well-remembered ghosts, monsters and/or tableaus from the Scary Stories books
in order to hunt the group down and dispatch them until one of them figures out that they
should try and solve the inevitable deeper secrets mystery of the ghost-author herself in order
to stop the curse. So, originality, is obviously not the strong
suit with this one… though, that’s kind of inevitable when we’re
talking about a nostalgia project that’s itself based on stories that were in some
cases older than the written word. On the other hand, you definitely do notice
that there’s a lot – and I mean a lot – of plot employed in order to get everything into
position for what turns out to be a two word story setup of “Haunted Book;” to the
point where it feels unnecessarily complicated and I respect there was some post-production
reworking involved: The book is cursed and full of ghost stories but it also writes new
stories for the people it’s going to kill some of which are based on dreams they’ve
had or drawn from other stories that scared them as kids but in both cases we aren’t
informed of that connection until just before it happens…
…and I’m thinking “that’s a lot of unnecessary extra plot machinery when all
you’re really doing is setting up how the scarecrow and “Where’s My Toe?” zombie and the… one that looks like Sarah
Huckabee Sanders if she was The Grudge are gonna jump out at people.” Add to that the welcome but curious fact that
half of the cast is acting it’s ass off as though there’s a chance for serious dramatic
recognition while the other half feels more acutely aware they’re making a just-gory-enough
PG-13 teen horror movie and the recurring Nixon/60s Racism/Vietnam references that play
out as though someone assumed that putting important history in the background would
“organically generated” meaningful subtext without having to actually write it and it’s
a schizophrenic narrative to put it mildly. But, fortunately, most of that doesn’t really
end up mattering in the end! Like… that probably sounded negative review I was building up to, but in spite of taking a bit to get going, taking itself too seriously and being a
little convoluted and also too easy to figure out; as youth-oriented horror movies go “Scary
Stories” is pretty damn solid! It’s well paced, the atmosphere works, the
period detail feels authentic, the scares are genuine, the creatures look awesome, the gore is good, young cast is solid and much like the books there’s some really nasty stuff squeezed
into the PG-13 limits of acceptability…yeah they do the spider thing and that’s gonna shake the younger kids up I think. You really can probably chalk that up to director
Andre Ovredal, who’s now 3 for 3 between this, The Autopsy of Jane Doe and Trollhunter (you should see both of those if you get the chance), this guy is just a flat-out excellent visual stylist and a great director and when the material is somewhat thin even then
he’s making it look and play well enough that it feels more substantive than it otherwise
might. Now, I don’t know that this is a classic, but it’s
got a lot of awkward issues and I’m not sure this is a franchise that was ever supposed
to be in motion or even off the page… but there’s some great set pieces here and it really works. And, yeah I think if you’re a fan you’re going to enjoy it, and even if you’re not a fan you’ll find a lot here to like. I’m gonna say 7 out of 10 – get’s the
job done.

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  1. They put out an omnibus version of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark a few years back. I picked it up out of nostalgia and let me tell you, the stories still hold up and the art is still terrifying.

  2. Please, please, please, -tell me they put in "Wait Until Martin Comes" in there somewhere??
    Those talking cats were my first experience with existential, almost cosmic horror. They were intelligent, alien, and and completely unafraid or hidden from the human in the story, but still seemed to notice him. It freaked me the fuck out

  3. Bob, I know that thing from "The Dream" scares you, but does it really deserve to be compared to Sarah Huckabee Sanders?

  4. If you grew up with those books, the artistry ALONE would give you nightmares. They were some great stuff.

  5. I had totally forgotten about these books. I remember seeing them in the Scholastic book fairs where they had this reputation for being taboo and too scary.

    Also, I'll never be able to see Sanders the same. Can't tell if she's more scary or less scary now.

  6. I had never heard of this book series until I took a banned books class at my school in January. When a friend suggested we read it for our report, I google images the book in the middle of class and legit screamed, much to my embarrassment

    I did the report and freaked out all over again seeing the 15 second spider teaser during the super bowl. Had no idea it was gonna be adapted.

    Great work bob, definitely seeing this a few times

  7. You know it’s a bob video when the bit overstays it’s welcome after 15 seconds but keeps going for another minute

  8. Trying to figure out where I'd heard the background music from and I realized it was from one of those freaky-ass YouTube channels I always foolishly watch when I'm home alone at night xD

  9. As a late-millennial/zillennial, I can testify that these books were still very popular for my generation. (Also, I can’t believe the toe zombie is in this. That’s the only story from the series that I read and it spooked me enough to stop reading.)

  10. Tell ya what, I really miss being an 8 year old kid and reading those books with fresh eyes. I am that late Gen Xer you were referring to. These books were my jam.

  11. I don't see the child eating alien fat man from the first book in any of the clips. Thank god. That was the one that terrified me as a child!

  12. "If Sarah Huckabee Sanders was The Grudge."

    Wow. C'mon, Bob. That's a low blow, making such an awful comparison. You owe The Grudge an apology.

  13. I liked how in 2011 they tried to make the artwork more kid-friendly & then immediately had to back-pedal by reissuing the original versions & now the 2011 version is entirely out of print. The film adaptation monsters even look like Gammell's work, which is honestly reason enough to see it even if it's a bad movie. The stories mostly lived & died by the artwork & the movie really couldn't have been that different.

  14. I'm just glad that apparently Hollywood is making folk tale collections into movies now. What producer do I pitch my idea for English Fairy Tales: The Movie to?

  15. 4:48 – Welp, there goes any scariness that creature had, as well as the prospect of my nasal cavities not being flooded with soda when drinking while watching this…

  16. I was too young to have read these when they were big, but I bumbled into them in a library before I could read and the art scared the bejeezus out of me.

  17. Speaking as someone who WAS a late genXer in the 80's and early 90's (graduated high school in 1993), and who read a lot of books – I totally and completely missed this series.

  18. I never even heard of this movie but I like the look of it. Going to have to check this one out. Thanks Bob 👍

  19. And then the movie reviewer took off the dark glasses he always wore…

    And his eye sockets started pouring out spiders! The person watching YouTube dropped their phone and ran screaming into the night.

  20. I remember seeing these books on the bookshelf of my (very religious) school and started flipping through it. Then my teacher looked over my shoulder and must have saw one of the illustrations and snatched it out my hand faster than I could blink and banned them from the school. This was when I was in Jr. High too.

  21. I've wondered what you looked like with no sun glasses earlier today, I've never been so scared that this was a coincidence.

  22. Lawl. I love how Bob is all feminist and self-righteous until he's mocking a conservative woman for her appearance.

  23. 1 minute 40seconds is a long time before the video starts. I get you want to pad it out a bit and have a goof, all fine, but that's a big proportion of the video length

  24. So my kids were born seven years apart. My younger son would sneak into his sister's room to read her books. He was also subject to night terrors. He remembers learning to read form those books. I remember the nightmares. So yeah…time for family movie night.

  25. People used to ask: "Have Guillermo del Toro seen Trollhunter" (Which was made by André Øvredal), and I guess we all got our answer. He must have liked it.

  26. Obligatory skip of 1.5+ mins of unfunny skit that lasts too long. What happened to you Bob? When did you go from being a genuinely interesting trend-setter to a trend-follower of those who came after you?

  27. I was expecting you to have like a mask or something on when you turned around during the intro there.

    But anyway, like a lot of your audience, I, too, was way into these books as a kid. I'm pretty sure I had all three of them. And it's neat to see how well they translate into motion, especially considering how haunting and abstract the still images were.

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