Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark (Subtitled) (15)



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Horror (2019)
107mins US/Can

Starring: Zoe Margaret Colletti, Gabriel Rush, Michael Garza
Director: Andre Ovredal
Writer(s): Guillermo del Toro, Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

In 1968, horror-obsessed teenager Stella Nicholls and her friends Auggie Hilderbrandt and Chuck Steinberg visit the supposedly haunted home of the Bellows family. School bully Tommy Milner locks them inside the house where they discover a book of scary stories, which belonged to the black sheep of the Bellows clan. When they escape from the house, the teenagers are disturbed to find fresh scrawl in the book, which casts Tommy as the victim of a malevolent scarecrow named Harold.

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LondonNet Film Review
Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark (15)

There are significantly fewer treats than tricks in Norwegian filmmaker Andre Ovredal's ghost story set on a particularly eventful Halloween as Richard Nixon edges closer to a White House languishing in the shadow of the Vietnam conflict. Based on the children's book series penned by Alvin Schwartz, Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark is a quietly unsettling, youth-oriented yarn in the same vein as Stranger Things and Goosebumps. Guillermo del Toro, Oscar-winning director of Pan's Labyrinth and The Shape Of Water, is credited as a producer and his fingerprints are visible on the designs of gnarled, fantastical creatures, which slither and shuffle through dimly-lit corridors...

Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark. Copyright: 2018 CBS Films Inc. and eOne Features LLC. Caption: Zoe Margaret Colletti as Stella Nicholls in Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark, directed by Andre Ovredal. Photo: George Kraychyk. All Rights Reserved.Were it not for a fleeting moment of close-up violence in a cornfield and a squeal-inducing set-piece in a bathroom mirror, director Ovredal's picture might struggle to be classified as certificate 15. The late 1960s setting allows the filmmakers to recycle familiar horror tropes in an era before Tobe Hooper, John Carpenter, David Cronenberg, Wes Craven and co stalked multiplexes. Ignorance is bliss for protagonists who stray from the group or hide in a wardrobe or underneath a bed to avoid their grim fate.

Teenager Stella Nicholls (Zoe Colletti) blames herself for the breakdown of her parents' marriage. She seeks refuge in the company of ghouls from her favourite horror films and comics. On Halloween night in the close-knit Pennsylvania community of Mill Valley, Stella and pals Auggie (Gabriel Rush) and Chuck (Austin Zajur) play a hastily improvised prank on school bully Tommy Milner (Austin Abrams).

The joke backfires and Stella, Auggie and Chuck are spared Tommy's retribution by jumping in the car of a mysterious newcomer named Ramon (Michael Garza) at the movie drive-in. To celebrate their escape, Stella suggests a late-night visit to the dilapidated mansion of the Bellows family, whose tragic history is a source of feverish local superstition. Inside a locked room, the teenagers discover a dusty tome of scary stories, which belonged to the black sheep of the clan, Sarah Bellows. A freshly inked tale materialises, which casts Tommy as the victim of a malevolent scarecrow named Harold. Fiction bleeds into reality and Stella realises they are all in grave danger. "You don't read the book. The book reads you!" she shudders.

Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark elicits a tickle of trepidation but never comes close to achieving the kind of white-knuckle terror that audiences have come to expect from their big-screen horrors. Set-pieces are confidently executed, including a disorienting encounter with a phantom called The Pale Lady, and largely devoid of jump scares. Colletti wrings copious tears from her emotionally bruised heroine, who musters courage and defiance in a crucible of shameful subjugation and fake news. Tell yourself: it's only a story.

- Jo Planter

Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark. Copyright: 2018 CBS Films Inc. and eOne Features LLC. Caption: Zoe Margaret Colletti as Stella Nicholls in Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark, directed by Andre Ovredal. Photo: George Kraychyk. All Rights Reserved.


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