An interpretation of Alvin Schwartz’s beloved book series and set against the backdrop of Nixon’s 1968 re-election campaign, André Øvredal’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark cleverly combines old-fashioned scares with timely socio-political commentary to create a satisfying, tween-friendly horror romp. A collection of vignettes centred around a book stolen from a haunted house, the film’s strengths far outnumber its weaknesses. Guillermo del Toro’s production looks gorgeously autumnal, the practical effects are consistently creative, and the red-tinted Pale Lady sequence is profoundly unsettling. Sadly, the clunky script hits a lot of familiar beats and features a host of clichéd characters. Attempts at political allegory are admirable, and an anti-racism message is strong and clear, but Øvredal mucks it up by sneaking in an unnecessary pro-military stance.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark | Directed by André Øvredal (US, Canada, 2019) with Zoe Margaret Colletti, Michael Garza. Starts Oct 31.
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