Directed by André Øvredal
Starring: Zoe Colletti, Michael Garza, Gabriel Rush, Austin Zajur
Runtime: 107 minutes
The premise week is simple. Think about anytime you’ve gone camping or sitting around at night telling your kids or friends a scary story you’ve heard in passing. Everyone knows at least one scary story they pass along. This film is based on a series of children books by the same name. There are three volumes and they consist of 82 short stories and was created in 1981 and the final volume was released in 1991. I remember these stories growing up, but I’ll be honest I hadn’t read them in a LONG time. Coming into the theatre, employee Courtney Kilgore said, “The film was great, and it matched the books.” After the movie I did some reading myself and she was right.
Onto the film.
We open with trademark “eerie” music to get the audience in the mood for the scares to come. We hear a voice-over telling us “Stories heal, stories hurt.” That immediately got my attention. In a way the things we hear daily can hurt or heal us. In a way these are stories we are told, and we are living OUR story each day. It’s a bit of a stretch but it’s there. We meet our leads in 1968 in Mills Valley, PA. It’s Halloween.
We have mainly four leads in this film, all eventual friends that go on this journey together. The main protagonist is named Stella (Colletti) and she’s joined by her two friends Chuck (Zajur) and Auggie (Rush) Auggie loves all the girls and is crushing on Stella. No jokes are needed here please. We eventually meet a mysterious drifter around their age named Ramon (Garza) The strength in this cast is Stella and Ramon, their acting was a notch above the others and they also had a nice chemistry that flowed naturally.
We learn during the Halloween night that there is an urban legend about a girl named Sarah who killed some of the town and was locked away in her basement. The clichés started to trickle in. Of course, the kids go to the house, and of course it’s haunted. We meet some jocks who again came off cliché. Bullies. Check. Underaged drinking. Check. First to die……more than likely. The film picks up when they find a hidden room in the abandoned home. I immediately thought of myself in that situation and I would have turned around and went out the front door. No thanks!
The group finds a book in the hidden room written by Sarah. It contained, wait for it, scary stories. It dawned on me that everything leading up to this acted as a prologue for the rest of the film. We then are given short stories from the book series live in front of us, and the majority of them now involve our cast. The shining light in this film is the creatures. Each story told contains at least one and every time one appears, I was impressed. One time, my mouth dropped, and I can still picture it today. (No, it wasn’t the Waverly Hills Creeper)
We go back in forth in the film between the short stories in the book and the group navigating through it and life. The problem for me stemmed from the issue that it seemed like two different films. Every time we entered one of Sarah’s stories things were fast-paced, creepy, and fun. When we get through it the movie again becomes cliché and honestly a little boring. For example, the film tries hard to make Ramon (Garza) the “cool guy”. He has a switchblade, a Zippo lighter, can pick locks, and rocks a leather jacket the entire time. Not terrible, but obvious and distracting.
This film could have cleaned up a few things and been better than it was. First, the timing for release doesn’t work. We start in October, during Halloween. I know October is usually crowded with horror films, but I think the audience would be more in the mood for this story around that time. Also, the script could have been better. It was evident that when the screenwriter had stories to go off from the book it flowed, the “down-time” was a struggle. The cast itself did well with what they had, and the creatures alone make this film worth seeing. If you’ve watched any other anthology films like Tales from the Crypt or the recent Trick ‘r Treat, you’ll enjoy this but probably wish it was a little more polished. Regardless fun time. 3 stars out of 5 #SHOPLOCAL
Andrew McManus is Operations Manager for Patties & Pints and its parent company Eflow Development.He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 740-981-9158