Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

2019, PG-13, 111 min. Directed by André Øvredal. Starring Zoe Margaret Colletti, Michael Garza, Austin Abrams, Gabriel Rush, Austin Zajur, Dean Norris, Gil Bellows, Lorraine Toussaint, Natalie Ganzhorn.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Aug. 16, 2019

A mixed bag of ghoulish tricks that might’ve been better served by an October release date, this adaptation of author Alvin Schwartz and artist Stephen Gammell’s creeptastic HarperCollins kid-lit frightmares packs a visually disturbing – and memorable – wallop but is ultimately undone by some less than remarkable character development and an unnecessary, if currently contemporaneous, pseudo-political undertones. Which isn’t to say it’s not a blast to see Gammell’s eerie, Francis Bacon-esque illustrations come to herky-jerky and horrifying life, because it is, absolutely. Like screenwriter (alongside Dan and Kevin Hageman) and producer Guillermo del Toro’s unforgettable “Pale Man” in Pan’s Labyrinth, Scary Stories… includes a bevy of phantasmagorical beasties, among them a vengeful scarecrow in serious need of some DDT, a Pale Lady who, like your Jewish grandmother, just loves to hug you, and an arachnophobic outburst that almost (but not quite) rivals E.G. Marshall’s ickily chitinous demise in Creepshow’s “They’re Creeping Up on You” segment. Parents of impressionable preteens be forewarned, it’s a hard PG-13, albeit one so gorgeously lit and shot (by cinematographer Roman Osin, fresh from working with Trollhunter director Øvredal on Fantastic Fest favorite The Autopsy of Jane Doe) that I found the freakishly inventive imagery lingering in my mind long after the house lights went up.

For reasons known only to the screenwriters (a team including Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton of Saw IV, V, VI and 3D and The Collector), this adaptation has been set in small-town America in 1968, with televisions repeatedly invoking the Vietnam War, the pending election of President Nixon, and where the local drive-in is showing – shocker! – George A. Romero’s seminal Night of the Living Dead. It’s in this culturally incendiary time that misfit teens Stella (Colletti), Auggie (Rush), and Chuck (Zajur), in a framing device not of the source material, discover a mysterious book deep within the bowels of the local haunted manse. Originally the property of 19th century local legend-cum-bugaboo Sarah Bellows, the musty old tome in question turns out to be a self-writing storybook of horrors, and one that quickly turns out to be foretelling the grim fates awaiting our protagonists and their chief antagonist and generic school bully, Tommy (Abrams). There’s also a nomadic Hispanic character, Ramón (Garza), who appears to have been added to the mix chiefly to evoke a different kind of outsider status than the kids he falls in with.

In this way the various stories from Schwartz’s original trilogy are incorporated into a patchwork cinematic reworking that holds true to the books’ deep-down trauma-hound illustrations – teen audience members may well hesitate before popping that zit in the mirror – while struggling to find a single tone throughout.

Although he did not direct, del Toro’s influence is front and center, particularly in the patently unnecessary references to the current real world’s fraught racial issues. Ramón’s car is spray-painted with the word “wetback” and the town’s chief of police comes across as a minor league Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The combining of the reel-world’s “scary stories” and the current zeitgeist’s xenophobic skirmishes over race and immigration feels forced and the constant equivocation of former presidential rat bastard Richard Milhous with current demagogue Donald John serves only to detract from what audiences and longtime fans of Schwartz’s books will be expecting. Scary Stories ... has enough bat-shit spooky bugaboos up its sleeve without adding racial politics into the mix, something del Toro’s been doing (and doing much less ham-fistedly) at least since 2001’s The Devil’s Backbone. Admittedly, much of this will go over the heads of the film’s target demographic, but still. It’s ultimately a memorably unnerving film and a legitimate gateway drug for budding young fans of surreal and, well, scary movies, but this lifelong lover of all things dark, dank, and dreadful thinks that it could have been so much more effective sans the pointed polemics.

Showtimes

Wed., Aug. 21

11:35am, 2:25, 5:15, 8:05, 10:55

Fri., Aug. 23

11:05am, 1:55, 4:45, 7:35, 10:25

Sat., Aug. 24

11:00am, 1:50, 4:45, 7:35

Sun., Aug. 25

11:00am, 1:50, 4:45, 7:35

Mon., Aug. 26

11:20am, 2:10, 5:00, 7:50, 10:40

Tue., Aug. 27

2:10, 5:00, 7:50, 10:40
AFA 11:20am

Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter Lane

5701 W. Slaughter, 512/861-7060, drafthouse.com/austin/theater/slaughter-lane

Showtimes at this venue are subject to frequent change. Please confirm daily times by phone or website.

Wed., Aug. 21

12:45, 3:40, 6:20, 10:10

Fri., Aug. 23

12:50, 3:50, 7:15, 10:10

Sat., Aug. 24

12:15, 3:15, 7:15, 10:05

Sun., Aug. 25

12:45, 3:40, 7:05, 10:00

Mon., Aug. 26

12:45, 3:45, 6:55, 9:50

Tue., Aug. 27

3:45, 6:55, 9:50
AFA 12:45

Wed., Aug. 21

1:30, 4:20, 7:15, 10:10

Fri., Aug. 23

12:10, 2:55, 6:00, 8:55

Sat., Aug. 24

12:40, 3:25, 6:30, 9:25

Sun., Aug. 25

10:30am, 1:20, 4:10, 7:00, 9:55

Mon., Aug. 26

12:35, 3:55, 6:15, 9:40

Tue., Aug. 27

3:20, 6:00, 8:55
AFA 12:30

Barton Creek Square (AMC)

2901 South Capital of Texas Hwy, 512/306-1991, www.amctheatres.com

Matinee discounts available before 4pm daily. Bring Your Baby matinees the first Tuesday of every month.

Wed., Aug. 21

CC/DVS 11:40am, 2:20, 5:00, 7:50

Fri., Aug. 23

CC/DVS 1:40, 4:20, 7:20, 10:10

Sat., Aug. 24

CC/DVS 1:40, 4:20, 7:20, 10:10

Sun., Aug. 25

CC/DVS 1:40, 4:20, 7:20

Mon., Aug. 26

CC/DVS 1:40, 4:20, 7:20

Tue., Aug. 27

CC/DVS 1:40, 4:20
sensory friendly 7:00

Cinemark 20 and XD

N. I-35 & FM 1825, 512/989-8535

Cost for 3-D and XD shows is regular ticket price plus a premium.

Fri., Aug. 23

digital 1:45, 4:35, 7:25, 10:15

Sat., Aug. 24

digital 10:55am, 1:45, 4:35, 7:25, 10:15

Sun., Aug. 25

digital 10:55am, 1:45, 4:35, 7:25, 10:15

Mon., Aug. 26

digital 1:45, 4:35, 7:25, 10:15

Tue., Aug. 27

digital 1:45, 4:35, 7:25, 10:15

Cinemark Cedar Park

1335 E. Whitestone, Cedar Park, 800/326-3264

Call theatre for complete list of movies and showtimes.

Wed., Aug. 21

digital 1:30, 4:30, 7:15, 10:00

Thu., Aug. 22

digital 1:30, 4:30, 7:15, 10:00

Fri., Aug. 23

digital 11:00am, 1:40, 4:20, 7:10, 10:00

Sat., Aug. 24

digital 11:00am, 1:40, 4:20, 7:10, 10:00

Sun., Aug. 25

digital 11:00am, 1:40, 4:20, 7:10, 10:00

Mon., Aug. 26

digital 1:40, 4:20, 7:10, 10:00

Tue., Aug. 27

digital 1:40, 4:20, 7:10, 10:00

Wed., Aug. 21

digital 11:35am, 2:20, 5:00

Thu., Aug. 22

digital 11:35am

Cinemark Round Rock

4401 N. I-35, Round Rock, 800/326-3264

Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium. Call theatre for complete March 26-28 showtimes.

Wed., Aug. 21

digital 2:15, 5:20, 8:05, 10:45

Thu., Aug. 22

digital 2:15, 5:20, 8:05, 10:45

Fri., Aug. 23

digital 12:00, 2:40, 5:20, 8:00, 10:40

Sat., Aug. 24

digital 12:00, 2:40, 5:20, 8:00, 10:40

Sun., Aug. 25

digital 12:00, 2:40, 5:20, 8:00, 10:40

Mon., Aug. 26

digital 12:00, 2:40, 5:20, 8:00, 10:40

Tue., Aug. 27

digital 12:00, 2:40, 5:20, 8:00, 10:40

Cinemark Southpark Meadows

9900 S. I-35, 800/326-3264

Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium.

Wed., Aug. 21

digital 11:15am, 1:55, 4:30, 7:20, 10:10

Thu., Aug. 22

digital 11:15am, 1:55, 4:30, 7:20, 10:10

Fri., Aug. 23

digital 11:15am, 1:55, 4:30, 7:20, 10:10

Sat., Aug. 24

digital 11:15am, 1:55, 4:30, 7:20, 10:10

Sun., Aug. 25

digital 11:15am, 1:55, 4:30, 7:20, 10:10

Mon., Aug. 26

digital 11:15am, 1:55, 4:30, 7:20, 10:10

Tue., Aug. 27

digital 11:15am, 1:55, 4:30, 7:20, 10:10

Cinemark Stone Hill Town Center

18820 Hilltop Commercial Dr., 512/251-0938, www.cinemark.com

Wed., Aug. 21

digital 12:40, 3:30, 6:15, 9:00

Fri., Aug. 23

digital 12:40, 3:30, 7:30, 10:15

Sat., Aug. 24

digital 10:10am, 12:40, 3:30, 7:30, 10:15

Sun., Aug. 25

digital 10:10am, 12:40, 3:30, 7:00, 9:45

Mon., Aug. 26

digital 12:40, 3:30, 6:30, 9:00

City Lights Theatre

420 Wolf Ranch Parkway, Georgetown, 512/868-9922

Wed., Aug. 21

1:15, 4:15, 7:10, 9:55

Thu., Aug. 22

1:15, 4:15, 7:10, 9:55

Fri., Aug. 23

10:10am, 1:10, 4:10, 7:10, 10:00

Sat., Aug. 24

10:10am, 1:10, 4:10, 7:10, 10:00

Sun., Aug. 25

1:10, 4:10, 7:10, 10:00

Mon., Aug. 26

1:10, 4:10, 7:10, 10:00

Tue., Aug. 27

1:10, 4:10, 7:10, 10:00

EVO Entertainment

3200 Kyle Crossing, Kyle, 512/523-9009, www.evo-entertainment.com

Fri., Aug. 23

11:05am, 1:45, 4:25, 7:00, 9:55

Sat., Aug. 24

11:05am, 1:45, 4:25, 7:00, 9:55

Sun., Aug. 25

11:05am, 1:45, 4:25, 7:00, 9:55

Mon., Aug. 26

11:05am, 1:45, 4:25, 7:00, 9:55

Tue., Aug. 27

11:05am, 1:45, 4:25, 7:00, 9:55

Flix Brewhouse

2200 S. I-35, Round Rock, 512/244-3549, www.flixbrewhouse.com/round-rock

Wed., Aug. 21

1:45, 4:45, 8:25, 10:30

Thu., Aug. 22

1:45, 10:30

Fri., Aug. 23

1:00, 4:25, 7:00, 10:20

Sat., Aug. 24

1:00, 2:30, 7:00, 10:30

Sun., Aug. 25

1:00, 4:25, 7:00, 10:30

Mon., Aug. 26

2:45, 7:00, 10:05

Tue., Aug. 27

2:45, 5:10, 7:00

Galaxy Highland 10

6700 Middle Fiskville, 512/467-7305, www.galaxytheatres.com

No one under 18 will be allowed in the theatre on Friday or Saturday after 7pm without an adult.

Wed., Aug. 21

CC 10:10am, 1:10, 4:15, 7:15, 10:15

Thu., Aug. 22

7:15, 10:15
CC 10:10am, 1:10, 4:15

Fri., Aug. 23

CC 4:15, 7:15, 10:15

Sat., Aug. 24

CC 4:15, 7:15, 10:15

Sun., Aug. 25

CC 4:15, 7:15, 10:15

Mon., Aug. 26

CC 4:15, 7:15, 10:15

Tue., Aug. 27

CC 4:15, 7:15, 10:15

Gateway Theatre

9700 Stonelake, 512/416-5700

Discounts daily before 6pm. Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium.

Wed., Aug. 21

CC/DVS 11:30am, 2:10, 4:50, 7:30, 10:15

Thu., Aug. 22

CC/DVS 11:30am, 2:10, 4:50, 7:30, 10:15

Fri., Aug. 23

CC/DVS 12:50, 3:45, 7:30, 10:15

Sat., Aug. 24

CC/DVS 12:50, 3:45, 7:30, 10:15

Sun., Aug. 25

CC/DVS 12:50, 3:45, 7:30, 10:15

Mon., Aug. 26

CC/DVS 12:50, 3:45, 7:30, 10:15

Tue., Aug. 27

CC/DVS 12:50, 3:45, 7:30, 10:15

Hometown Cinemas

120 MLK Jr. Industrial Blvd. W, Lockhart, 512/398-4100, www.hometowncinemas.com

Wed., Aug. 21

11:20am, 2:00, 4:25, 7:15

Thu., Aug. 22

11:20am, 2:00, 4:35, 7:15

Fri., Aug. 23

11:20am, 2:00, 4:35, 7:15, 9:55

Sat., Aug. 24

11:20am, 2:00, 4:35, 7:15, 9:55

Sun., Aug. 25

11:20am, 2:00, 4:35, 7:15

Mon., Aug. 26

11:20am, 2:00, 4:35, 7:15

Tue., Aug. 27

11:20am, 2:00, 4:35, 7:15

iPic Theaters Austin

3225 Amy Donovan Plaza, 512/568-3400, www.ipic.com

Wed., Aug. 21

12:45, 3:45, 6:45, 9:30

AMC Lakeline 9

11200 Lakeline Mall Dr., Cedar Park, 512/335-4793

Discounts daily before 6pm.

Wed., Aug. 21

CC/DVS 2:30, 5:15, 8:00

Thu., Aug. 22

CC/DVS 2:30, 5:15, 8:00

Fri., Aug. 23

CC/DVS 2:30, 5:15, 8:00, 10:30

Sat., Aug. 24

CC/DVS 11:35am, 2:30, 5:15, 8:00, 10:30

Sun., Aug. 25

CC/DVS 11:30am, 2:30, 5:15, 8:00

Mon., Aug. 26

CC/DVS 2:15, 5:00, 7:45

Tue., Aug. 27

CC/DVS 2:15, 5:00
sensory friendly 7:40

Metropolitan

901 Little Texas, 512/447-0101

Discounts daily before 6pm. Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium.

Wed., Aug. 21

CC/DVS 11:50am, 2:30, 5:15, 8:00, 10:45

Thu., Aug. 22

CC/DVS 11:50am, 2:30, 5:15, 8:00, 10:45

Fri., Aug. 23

CC/DVS 2:20, 5:05, 7:50, 10:35

Sat., Aug. 24

CC/DVS 2:20, 5:05, 7:50, 10:35

Sun., Aug. 25

CC/DVS 2:20, 5:05, 7:50, 10:35

Mon., Aug. 26

CC/DVS 2:20, 5:05, 7:50, 10:35

Tue., Aug. 27

CC/DVS 2:20, 5:05, 7:50, 10:35

Moviehouse & Eatery

8300 N. FM 620, Bldg. B, 512/501-3520, www.themoviehouse.com/trails/

Wed., Aug. 21

11:15am, 1:05, 4:05, 7:00, 10:20

Thu., Aug. 22

11:15am, 1:05, 4:05, 7:00, 10:20

Schulman Theatres Lost Pines 8

1600 Chestnut St, Bastrop, 512/321-0123, www.schulmantheatres.com

Wed., Aug. 21

11:00am, 2:00, 4:50, 7:40, 10:35

Thu., Aug. 22

10:30am, 1:25, 4:25, 7:20, 10:20

Fri., Aug. 23

10:30am, 1:25, 4:25, 7:20, 10:20

Sat., Aug. 24

10:30am, 1:25, 4:25, 7:20, 10:20

Sun., Aug. 25

10:30am, 1:25, 4:25, 7:20, 10:20

Mon., Aug. 26

10:30am, 1:25, 4:25, 7:20, 10:20

Tue., Aug. 27

10:30am, 1:25, 4:25, 7:20, 10:20

ShowBiz Cinemas 8 Marble Falls

2600 Hwy 281 North, Marble Falls

Call theatre for August 22-23 showtimes.

Wed., Aug. 21

2:20, 4:10, 7:20

Thu., Aug. 22

2:20, 4:10, 7:10

Fri., Aug. 23

11:10am, 2:20, 5:00, 7:40, 10:10

Sat., Aug. 24

11:10am, 2:20, 5:00, 7:40, 10:10

Sun., Aug. 25

11:10am, 2:20, 4:40, 7:40

Mon., Aug. 26

2:20, 5:00, 7:40

Tue., Aug. 27

2:20, 5:00, 7:40

Sky Cinemas

13201 US-290, 512/457-0700, www.skycinemas.com

Wed., Aug. 21

11:25am, 2:00, 4:35, 7:10, 9:45

Fri., Aug. 23

11:25am, 2:00, 4:40, 7:15, 9:50

Sat., Aug. 24

11:25am, 2:00, 4:40, 7:15, 9:50

Sun., Aug. 25

11:25am, 2:00, 4:40, 7:15, 9:50

Mon., Aug. 26

11:10am, 1:45, 4:25, 7:00, 9:35

Tue., Aug. 27

11:10am, 1:45, 4:25, 7:00, 9:35

Wed., Aug. 21

11:00am, 1:30, 3:45, 7:15, 10:45

Fri., Aug. 23

11:15am, 4:00, 8:00, 10:15

Sat., Aug. 24

11:15am, 4:00, 8:00, 10:15

Sun., Aug. 25

11:15am, 4:00, 7:30, 10:15

Mon., Aug. 26

11:15am, 4:00, 8:00, 10:15

Tue., Aug. 27

11:15am, 4:00, 8:00, 10:15

Starplex 12 San Marcos

1250 Wonder World Drive, San Marcos, 512/805-8000

Wed., Aug. 21

11:45am, 2:30, 5:15, 8:00, 10:45

Thu., Aug. 22

11:45am, 2:30, 5:15, 8:00, 10:45

Westgate 11

4477 S. Lamar, 512/899-2717

Discounts daily before 6pm. Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium.

Wed., Aug. 21

CC/DVS 11:30am, 2:00, 4:30, 7:00, 9:30

Thu., Aug. 22

CC/DVS 11:30am, 2:00, 4:30, 7:00, 9:30

Fri., Aug. 23

CC/DVS 11:15am, 2:30, 5:00, 7:30, 10:00

Sat., Aug. 24

CC/DVS 11:15am, 2:30, 5:00, 7:30, 10:00

Sun., Aug. 25

CC/DVS 11:15am, 2:05, 4:00, 6:30, 9:00

Mon., Aug. 26

CC/DVS 11:15am, 1:50, 4:20, 7:10, 9:35

Tue., Aug. 27

CC/DVS 11:15am, 2:10, 4:40, 7:10, 9:40

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, André Øvredal, Zoe Margaret Colletti, Michael Garza, Austin Abrams, Gabriel Rush, Austin Zajur, Dean Norris, Gil Bellows, Lorraine Toussaint, Natalie Ganzhorn

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