Are the films no longer scary as they were years? This harmless question has become in recent years the spearhead of all those who do not want to adapt to the evolution of the genre. That after the whirlwind that films like "Hereditary" have revived. But the truth is that Hollywood continues to offer classic alternatives for this audience.
The large studios have no reason to give up this scheme of terror in the face of the unknown of jumpscares and predictable characters, which year after year has revalidated the The Conjuring franchise. And that is precisely what CBS thought six long years ago when it won the rights to the literary saga of Alvin Schwartz. The friendliest path to the big screen was paved for "Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark", not knowing that the opportunity was actually poisoned.
There was no intention of deconstructing anything with an adaptation, and the study made it clear from the beginning. Although the signing of André Øvredal as director suggested a somewhat more independent drift, the script responded entirely to a purely youthful and playful intent. The Hageman brothers, responsible for films such as "The LEGO Movie" or "Hotel Transylvania" tied to the soft and conservative essence of the original material to suit the summer box office.
And neither the subsequent arrival of Guillermo del Toro as an endorsement -in promotional reality-, nor the attempts of CBS to overshadow the marketing of the tape, finished blurring what he had always arranged those stories for teenagers published in the early 80s. "Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark" is nothing more than a summer blockbuster with recycled formulas and conditioned to engage the most conformist youth audience. But is that bad?
Getting a set of stories to work properly under the same narrative umbrella was complex, but the team led by Øvredal succeeds with hardly any cracks. The selection that makes the film of the stories to adapt is rather arbitrary, although its implementation in the adventure of the protagonist group is made with such softness, that it even seems originally natural. Harold, The Jangly Man or Pale Lady are back, with all the visual terror that comes down from Stephen Gammel's famous portraits, but not his stories. Not at least as they are remembered.
The film chooses to place Stella Nicholls (played by the talented Zoe Margaret Colletti), Auggie Hilderbrandt (by Gabriel Rush) and Chuck Steinberg (by Austin Zajur) in the center of the action, to gradually weave the excuses that pave the way to each of the stories. The pretext is built by the discovery of a diary lost in a mansion, on which a young woman locked up by her parents more than a century ago, wrote all kinds of narrative stumbling with disdain. What do you get from that? A sort of Final Destination with young people trying to survive all kinds of creatures throughout the city.
Originality is neither expected nor unexpected here. Not because "Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark" started from an existing material, but because the film's execution is rather bland. Øvredal uses all existing clichés and tropes to try to build a terrifying experience. But all he gets is to give almost 120 minutes of foreseeable situations lacking any sense of danger. With flat characters that do not have space to evolve and resources of the genre to which they usually resort to the productions of series b.
It is not possible to empathize with young people whose only mission throughout the footage happens to annoy Tommy (Austin Adams), the stupid squad and bevel thug, who, oh! surprise, ends up serving as feed for the cheap macgufin on duty. Of that pasty nougat only Stella, who with the arrival to the town of Ramón (Michael Garza), seems to gain some more projection. In fact, it is she who carries the singing voice of the story at all times, with a more than correct Colletti, which, while convincing, does not end up getting rid of the 90's romance either.
The presence of Del Toro could have given the production that touch of distinction that so much sought a story of a conventional cut. However, "Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark" fails to extrapolate the terror of the nostalgia soup granted by widely known books. Just having fun, but not uncomfortable. It goes a little beyond clumsiness.