Set among the warm fall colors in 1968, director André Øvredal's (Trollhunter) adaptation of Alvin Schwartz's collection of folklore that are forever ingrained in the minds of the children who read them thanks to Stephen Gammell’s red and blue-tinged illustrations is a genuinely frightening slice of nostalgia horror aimed at the same audience as Schwartz's three collections of short stories with the visual prowess to line up alongside the creepiest of horror shows. It's a difficult line to skirt and an even greater feat to accomplish, but what allows this compilation of the individual stories to feel like a cohesive whole is both the fact that no individual creature or arc is meant to outshine the other and that Øvredal along with screenwriters Dan and Kevin Hageman with a credit also going to producer Guillermo del Toro is the fact they utilize said creatures and arcs within the architecture of your standard "killer/slasher" structure to enhance the character arcs of our heroes. The caveat of this adaptation is that they've made each of these "scary stories" a symptom of the same source-a book written by the strange, misbegotten daughter of the family who founded this rural farming community in which the film takes place: Sarah Bellows. This plot device of a literal book of scary stories allows for the main characters to have the knowledge and understanding of what they're dealing with, for the structure to ratchet up the tension by placing a ticking clock via the head count and finally, for the Hageman's and del Toro to write these protagonist's in a way so that the stories they end up in from Bellows' book are of a metaphorical nature thus lending the individuals and the stories themselves a certain amount of depth. This isn't to say Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark transcends the horror genre and will go on to serve as a defining piece of work, but more that this film in particular had the difficult task of relaying a work written for children that was meant to make those children feel like adults into a movie that looked as if it were made for adults, but successfully functioned as a movie for both audiences. And sure, different genres do this all the time, but there has always been a clear distinction between PG-13 horror and R-rated horror and while some of this achievement may be relegated to the fact this was granted a PG-13 rating and we therefore accept this content is acceptable for younger teen audiences, to see past the semantics is to see that Scary Stories doesn't simply achieve the objective of being creepy, but it ever so quietly works its way into that rarified air of being a horror film that feels as familiar and comforting as the fall leaves its set within while still being unnerving; hell, it may not break any barriers, but it does feel like a breath of fresh air.


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