It's interesting to me the legacy that the Scary Stories books have, especially among folks around my age. I started reading them in elementary school, as did many of my friends, and they were truly unique in every sense of the term. More pulpy than R.L. Stine's Goosebumps, while retaining an accessible style that kids and teenagers could understand.
So of course, given this nostalgia, the prospect of a film adaptation is enticing and exciting. Given the constraints that a film like this has to have, this isn't a horrible adaptation, either. However, it does feel stitched together, comprised of different limbs and parts in order to work as a singular story. As such, it loses some of the allure that the short story collections had, and feels imprecise.
With that said, André Øvredal was the perfect choice to direct this film. The horror visuals were utterly superb, especially for a PG-13 horror film, and while I rolled my eyes at many of the unnecessary jump-cuts, he built tension and suspense in a palpable way. Akin to The Autopsy of Jane Doe, Øvredal uses precise camerawork and specific editing to make the horror scenes truly memorable (it will be a while before I forget the Scarecrow scene and the Pale Lady). What's remarkable is that he manages to work within the confines of a PG-13 rating without making the horror feel toothless.
As I said before, I'm mixed on the actual narrative. I understand its purpose, and I think it does have some merits, but ultimately it strikes me as a total opposite to the eerie and unsettling visuals. Perhaps that works in the books' favor, though, as it complements the accessible, yet pulpy stories that I read when I was ten.
SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK ★★★
written by Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman & Guillermo del Toro || directed by André Øvredal
Rated PG-13 || 108 MIN || Released on 9 August 2019