“Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark”
Based on the book series by Alvin Schwartz, this semi-kid-friendly horror piece wraps several of the original stories in an overall package that isn’t quite an anthology. On Halloween night, 1968, several kids break into the old mansion on the outskirts of town, rumored to be haunted by the spirit of Sarah Bellows. The legend says that although Sarah was kept locked up by her family for reasons unknown, if a child crept up to the house and asked for a story, Sarah would oblige and tell them, through the walls, a scary story. Our meddling kids happen upon Sarah’s hidden room in the house, and therein find her handwritten book of scary stories.
Over the next several days they discover that Sarah isn’t quite done with her stories yet. New stories appear in the book starring each of the kids, and each becomes real in horrorific ways. The kids desperately try to find a way to stop Sarah and her tales, before they all fall victim to them.
Though it might be a bit much for very young children, preteens and older into horror — or fans of the books — will find much to like here. Producer Guillermo del Toro and director André Øvredal have put together an enjoyable romp that, while not necessarily scary, definitely has its creepy moments. The main actors are all quite good as well (Zoe Colletti, Michael Garza, Gabriel Rush, Austin Zajur). The creature effects round out the package, with effects wizards turning out some original monsters, as well as bringing some of the book’s illustrations (by Stephen Gammell) to life.
Final Grade: B
“Ready or Not”
When I first heard the title of this movie, I honestly thought it was a bad idea. Taking the concept of the game of hide and seek and turning it into a movie? I assumed it would be as terrible as the many movies made about games of truth or dare. Then the trailer came out, and I was intrigued.
And, I’m happy I gave it a chance.
The movie stars Samara Weaving as Grace, who has just married into the eccentric and fabulously wealthy Le Domas family. Having made their money from board and card games, the family has a tradition that when someone new joins through marriage, the family must gather together and play a game. Said game is randomly chosen by the new family member via a special antique puzzle box which will spit out a card bearing the name of the game to play. While most are completely benign, if “Hide and Seek” is revealed, the new spouse must hide while the rest of the family seeks — with the ultimate goal being to sacrifice the new spouse in a ritual before dawn, lest tragedy befall the existing family members. No one has chosen it in 30 years, so what are the odds, right?
What transpires on screen is two-thirds dark comedy, and one-third thriller. As Grace comes to the very quick realization of just what is as stake, and her new hubby Alex (Mark O’Brien) tries to help her as best he can, the rest of the family is truly out for blood, and the jokes wind down the longer Grace keeps them all running. When the jokes happen they are well timed and fun, and the filmmakers (directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, edited by Terel Gibson) do an excellent job of combining the comedy and the suspense, all the way to the very satisfying and multi-layered conclusion. The cast does a great job at bringing it all to life, with a particularly scene-chewing turn by Nicky Guadagni as Aunt Helene. Also stars Adam Brody, Hery Czerny, and Andie MacDowell.