«Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark» is probably a Frankenstein from a film that gathers tales from the 1980s book series adored by Alvin Schwartz and illustrated by Stephen Gammell.The Schwartz Stories, drawn from folklore and legend are mainly one or two pages. But they feel like shared nightmares, surrounding an eternal campfire. One is about a hide-and-seek game that went wrong for the daughter of a newlywed minister. Another begins simply: «There was a haunted house where every night a bloody head fell down the chimney. At least that’s what people say.
Gammell’s wonderful black-and-white sketches made the stories much more vivid and unsettling. They’re the kind you never forget. The same cannot be said of André’s «Stories of Fear to Tell in the Dark», although he tries to pay homage to his original material. He uses Schwartz’s stories and Gammell’s images imaginatively, mixing them into a narrative driven by a found book, written in blood, that writes the film’s teenage characters in the horrors evoked in horror fables ( among them «Harold», «The Big Toe» «And» The Red Spot).
It is a noble enough mission, made with obvious devotion to the creation of the authors and a sincere desire to capture the magical ability of the books to, page by page, make their way through the darkest corners of our minds.
Of course, books about it alone, without the help of movies. And the film of ‘vredal, intertwining the supernatural creations of Schwartz and Gammell, blunts its effect, making them more like tropes within a familiar horror film context.
However, even if the material, a haunted scarecrow, the vengeful ghost of a young woman, may feel out of place, the footage of Avredal is fresh and vibrant. The Norwegian director of «Trollhunter», who works with the monster producer and director Guillermo Del Toro, composing the film with frames full of texture and shadows. Shine with a familiar nostalgia (the film is set in 1968 and a drive-in sets the stage for a pivotal scene, with «Night of the Living Dead» behind it) and a vitality that pushes the genre forward very lightly.
Schwartz’s books were for children, but they had a darkness that has since probably resulted in a few disapproving parents. The PG-13-rated film tries to ride a similar line and, for the most part, does so, falling somewhere between Amblin and Blumhouse.