At some point last year, I remember reading somewhere that the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark movie was actually good. While I didn’t make going to see it a priority, I looked forward to when I could watch it for free from the public library.
Then I had the “oh, wait… from ‘producer’ Guillermo Del Toro…” moment when I finally had it in my hands. For awhile, seeing Del Toro’s name on things was a mark of quality, but I’ve been pretty eh on a lot of his stuff where he’s only had ‘producer’ cred. In fact, I’m struggling to recall the last time I really liked any Del Toro movie, and I think that the one with the teeth fairies might have been the last one [Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, 2010, writer credits].
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark was basically a Scary Stories-branded version of the Goosebumps movie with no Jack Black. I’m not really sure what I was expecting, but it wasn’t that…
A bunch of kids go to a haunted house and find a spookybook of spookytales that come true. The attempts to work the few short scary stories from the book into the narrative of the film were about as seamless as a quilt. For instance, The Big Toe is worked in by having one kid staying home while his parents are out–there’s a pot of stew in the fridge with a toe in it. Why? Were his parents cannibals? Was his mother a mortician? A serial killer? No, the toe in the stew simply exists in the fridge because there was story with a toe in stew and the film needed an excuse for the “where’s my toe?” ghost.
The only genuinely scary part, I think, was the Pale Lady from “The Dream”, even though, other than the iconic look of the character, nothing was used from the original story.
I think that more than any other property, Scary Stories could’ve revived the classic horror showcase format… or they could’ve done a more original horror story that simply borrowed heavily from Gammell’s incidental art and aesthetic. But the whole “here’s a book of spooky stories, people die, and by the way, the big local company was the real villain” just smacked of an unoriginality that many fans of the books might find disappointing.