Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Theatrical Release: August 9, 2019
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark


The Dove Take:

Adaptation of horror stories is filled with jump-scares, well-realized monsters and some negative content.

Dove Review

The Synopsis:

A group of teens face their fears in order to save their lives.

The Review:

Wanna hear a story?

Once upon a time, in the early 1980s, the first in a trilogy of books was published. Terrifying and controversial, they told short stories with horrifying illustrations. The first book was called Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. They’ve haunted bookshelves ever since.

Wait. Did you hear something? Gasp! Don’t take your eyes off this screen. Do you hear it? Don’t check if there’s anything there. Don’t turn around! It’s there …

It’s the movie!

As an adaptation, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark isn’t too remarkable or too underwhelming. And, jump-scares aside, the books are so much more terrifying. Really. I mean it. The stories are concise and compelling. And the illustrations? If you haven’t seen the illustrations, don’t look them up. Don’t open up another tab and copy and paste the phrase “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark original illustrations.” Consider this a cliché warning at the beginning of a horror story.

It’s a horror film with training wheels. It tries to scare/startle you (and may succeed) then turns around and assures you things are okay. It steps into sequences of horror, mostly jump-scares, monsters, and body-horror before retreating to a comfortable teen-adventure framework. The effects and sound design are solid, attempting to translate the stories and illustrations (you didn’t look those up, right?) to the screen. But on its adaptation journey, it’s gathered some extra content. Some of the horror, gore, and dark supernatural content is still there, but now accompanied by language (including a racist term said by a nasty character) and more.

Some folks looking for a scary-and-slightly-silly time might find it satisfying, while others may find its content and intentions sour and sickening.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is not Dove-Approved.

Content Description

Faith: Mention, potentially as a joke, of, “Be happy the Lord provided.”
Integrity: Characters help, even when things are scary; a theme of helping to restore the integrity of a character’s legacy.
Sex: Some banter and hand-holding; a bully gets uncomfortable near a young lady; mention of a guy maybe having a “stiffy”; a character is called a “perv.”
Language: J/J.C.-2; GD-2; D-2; H-4; A-hole-2; the S word is said many times, as well as other language; the racist term “wet back” is said, and graffitied, in an act of vandalism.
Violence: Horror violence, such as a character being impaled by a pitchfork and turning into a scarecrow, a deadly neck-snap; a gazillion spiders swarming out of a young lady’s face, dismembered body parts, including some that assemble into a terrifying monster; we hear about how children died, and stories of a “child murderer”; blood, including some that is potentially from kids; an act of vandalism; the film is set in 1968, and the Vietnam War is mentioned and is an aspect of the plot; the original Night of The Living Dead is seen at a drive-in.
Drugs: A teen character is apparently drunk, and has been previously; bottles seen.
Nudity: A pen has some pin-up style art on it; somewhat revealing outfits on posters and artwork.
Other: Dark spirituality; “black magic”; ghost; monsters; suicide; torture; disturbing themes regarding mental illness; lying; jump-scares; a guy spends the night at a girl’s house and she doesn’t want her dad to know (he sleeps in the basement while she’s upstairs); racism; a gross practical joke involving poo (which is seen quickly); negativity; a girl blames herself.


Company: Lionsgate
Director: André Øvredal
Genre: Horror
Runtime: 111 min.
Industry Rating: PG-13
Reviewer: John P.