Review: “Scary Stories to Tell In The Dark” Gives Predictable Plot
A story can hurt, and a story can heal. This simple sentence opens and closes “Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark” – a film directed by André Øvredal who has helmed various thriller and horror flicks. This time he worked with famed director and screenwriter, Guillermo Del Toro, as well as Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan. The whole plot was inspired and based on a book written by Alvin Schwartz. The screenwriters patched the stories written on the three series of book by Schwarts into one full story that has correlations, suspense, and of course, monsters. The film was set in the ’60s when Richard Nixon took the oval office. In a small town of Mill Valley, Pennsylvania, there was a runaway 18-year-old named Ramon who tried to get away from his duty as a US citizen to serve in the Vietnam War. There, he met a bunch of teens who found it hard to fit in within their peers. There was Stella, a girl who found love through writings and words; Augie, a boy who struggled to find a girl who likes her; and Charlie a.k.a Chuck who was fed up with Tommy, a bully in his high school who pranked the three of them.
In a Halloween night, the three who sought revenge to Tommy found themselves in hot water after making Tommy’s car crashed. They finally found the perfect spot to hide, within Ramon’s car in which Tommy and the gang could not infiltrate. As an act of gratitude, the gang took Ramon around their little city and a haunted house which once belonged to the Bellows family. There, they unfolded a secret that should not be seen, heard, or known by anyone. The vengeful spirit of Sarah Bellows who haunted the place terrorized the children and other inhabitants of Mill Valley, causing death, missing bodies, and an endless nightmare.
The story which was inspired by several short stories was crafted elegantly into one coherent plot. The screenwriters did a nice touch in adding politics, cultural background, as well as racism sentiments into this story. If one must look carefully, the character of Ramon Morales showcased how double standard works in the US. In one side, he was seen as an outsider, a ‘wet pack’ from a Hispanic country that didn’t belong in the land of freedom. However, once his life was needed as a US token on the Vietnam War, he is suddenly a 100% US citizen. Another take on racism can also be seen on the character of Louise Baptiste, a former daughter of a slave who worked for the Bellows family. Becoming handicapped in her old age didn’t guarantee great healthcare since her race, African-American, was only seen as a second-class citizen back then.
The ongoing propaganda spawn by Nixon’s administration to keep recruiting freshman to fulfill US’ losing war in Vietnam was shown on multiple occasions on the film. How Nixon was hated by his own people for his unpopular policies was visible on some scenes. Moving on from tiny teeny details that the writers added in this narrative, the actual horror stuff was pretty good. The monsters that appeared was unmistakably Guillermo Del Toro’s vision came to life. However, the coherency of the plot was pretty predictable from the start. Who died first and who finally became the hero and continued the journey was pretty much foreseeable once the main casts gathered. Coming from horror stories dedicated to children, “Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark” gave solid jumpscares, strong characters, but a predictable plot that might be too simple for horror or thriller fans to deal with. The movie is out on various cinemas across Indonesia!