Sunday, October 13, 2019

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)

Back in the 80s I twice dated girls hailing from upstate New York, from beyond the confines of Gotham. Along the way I learned the relative importance in their culture of urban myths and campfire tales. 

One of them told me a scary story — in the midst of a dark, thundery night while we were travelling in France — about a babysitter and her spine-chilling fate, giving the impression that she had heard it first hand from a friend, and only several years later did I realise that this had been the plot of a fairly missable movie. 

Young Americans of our generation are likely to have grown up with Alvin Schwartz's illustrated children's books of the same name as this new movie, though rather like Dr Pepper, they were not such a big deal back in Blighty at the time. 

Guillermo del Toro, also a Generation Xer, has had a big hand here in amalgamating a set of Schwartz's stories into a sort of compound plot (not entirely convincingly) for a modern YA audience. 

Period horror has become a thing, largely one supposes as a way to dodge the dilemmas of cellphones and digital communications. Here the action has been thrown back to 1968, just before Nixon's election, with Vietnam the metaphorical monster under the bed. It's been done quite well, yet somehow adds to the sense of aimlessness about the production. 

Anyway, André Øvredal's film is broadly entertaining, yet also possibly a bit too gruesome for the age-group it is ostensibly targeted at, whilst being neither scary nor coherent enough for us older folk. 

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