If there’s anything reassuring left to be said about evidently gifted director André Øvredal’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark it’s that while it does tread light, footnote steps within the kingdom of its familiar plot, it is a noble showcase when it comes to its genuinely frightening monsters that it so cleverly lodges into various sequences. Producer Guillermo del Toro is known for having this sort of specialty, and the “gorror-free” flick doesn’t shy away from showing its possibly adolescent audience its brainy yet sinister costume designs.
Unfortunately, the boat doesn’t sail quite farther than that. The ending product feels like a late-night edition of a 90s Goosebumps episode—and not even a good one like Say Cheese and Die, where a 15-year-old Ryan Gosling skirmishes around his hometown, idiotically letting people take pictures of themselves and others with his evil camera even though he knows that they will d-i-e if they do so. Its attempts at embracing heart or at resonating with its family-targeted audience members seem urgent for a few more rewrites.
Anyways, at the end of the day, it isn’t that bad. But inessentially mazing through horror clichés and cruddy jump-scare tricks won’t allow Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark to last long within the heated discussions of young tweens and teens—especially for generations to come unparalleled to its eternal source material.
“Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” is now playing in theaters.