Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark: Too Scary for The Bedroom, Not Scary Enough for The Theater


Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is Andre Overdal’s adaptation of the classic Alvin Schwartz anthologies that provides an interesting reimagining. However, it fails to strike the right balance, both in its scares and story. As is custom, I will first consider the film as an adaptation of the source material.

I will readily admit that I am not a horror movie fan, but as someone who enjoyed Schwartz’s work when I was in grade school, I walked into the film with a mix of nostalgia for the old stories and curiosity for what Øverdal was adding to these tales. In this sense, I was both pleased and disappointed. A good adaptation should preserve the best aspects of the original while bringing something new and interesting to the story. Øverdal’s setting and characters are both new and interesting, weaving the scares of the classic tales into the problems of the tumultuous 1960s.

This was done to add a sense of dramatic weight and tell a compelling story that alludes nicely to the extensive research into folklore and urban legend in which Schwartz rooted his stories. The problem is that the original tales are overshadowed by these additions, losing many of subtleties that made them so interesting to begin with. While both sections of the film are enjoyable in their own right, they seem to exist in conflict rather than in symbiosis. One has to wonder if Schwartz’s work would be better suited to an American Horror Story-style television format, with each season representing an entirely different storyline. 

As a standalone horror film, the movie once again fails to find proper balance. As I am not one to watch horror films for the scare factor, I brought along a close friend and former roommate who lives for a good jolt of gut-chilling terror.

He found the monsters sufficiently grotesque and the atmosphere of the psychiatric hospital basement to be downright unsettling. On the other hand, he noted that most of the film was too tame for a seasoned horror lover such as himself. It was also probably too intense for the younger demographic that is implied by the PG-13 rating. 

All in all, 3 out of 5 

Worth renting or streaming.