For those who might have seen this one already, yes, that was Bela Lugosi’s face prominently displayed on the bedroom wall of the primary protagonist, as he looked when portraying the character Murder Legendre in WHITE ZOMBIE. If you haven’t seen the SCARY STORIES flick yet, be on the lookout for Lugosi’s mug (although it’s kinda hard to miss).
Produced by Guillermo Del Toro, who also wrote the screenplay, and directed by André Øvredal, who gave us such superb films as TROLLHUNTER and THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE (and if you haven’t seen both those movies, you need to post haste), SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK lived up to its pedigree. It was exactly what you would expect given the ingredients. It’s as if one of the THE CONJURING movies were fashioned as family-friendly fare, though it’s scary enough that your kiddies might have some nightmares if you take them to see it. It can be enjoyed just as much by adult Horror marks, and at the showing I attended most of the audience members were grown-ups.
The think that really makes the SCARY STORIES books stand out from the rest is the magnificently creepy artwork by Stephen Gammell, and the biggest challenge for the filmmakers was to bring those illustrations to life for the big screen in a way that maintained the original feel. I’m happy to report that they pulled it off. The monsters and ghosts look just as they should. (I think the Pale Lady is probably the creepiest, though my favorite is Harold the scarecrow.)
The acting is fine across the board, but I would be remiss not to call special attention to the performance of young lead Zoe Colletti, who is outstanding.
Good story, good acting, and well-executed ghosts and ghouls. The movie fires on all cylinders. Go see it.