The Netflix Horror Thriller Based On Novel That Traumatized Kids For Decades

By Robert Scucci | Published

scary stories to tell in the dark
  • Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark is streaming on Netflix
  • The movie is from a screenplay by Guillermo del Toro and based on a novel
  • It’s a series of terrifying urban legends

Millennials of a certain age will often point to Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark as their introduction to the horror genre. The collection of short stories written by Alvin Schwartz and illustrated by Stephen Gammell was controversial throughout the ’80s and ’90s for its willingness to terrify children with its macabre subject matter and accompanying drawings that were considered extremely graphic and inappropriate for its target audience.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

But if you were one of many children who repeatedly checked Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark out from your school library despite the fact that concerned parents tried time and time again to get the book banned, then you need to check out the 2019 film adaptation the next time you’re feeling nostalgic.

You may be wondering how an anthology of urban legends could be turned into a cohesive story, but Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark somehow manages to pull it off. We understand that you may have your doubts after watching 1998’s Urban Legend, which similarly tried to lean into modern folklore but failed miserably.

But thanks to the brilliant story written by Guillermo del Toro, which was then drafted into a screenplay by Dan and Kevin Hageman, the film puts a modern twist on the classic children’s book without alienating the source material.

A Secret Room And Secret Stories

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark takes the best elements from the Alvin Schwartz collection and expertly folds them into a narrative that centers on a group of kids who stumble across a story book in an abandoned house.

The film’s primary protagonist, Stella, finds a secret room in the house with her friend, Ramón, and quickly realizes that the stories found within its pages are written in blood by its deceased author, Sarah Bellows.

Being an avid writer herself, Stella can’t help herself and quickly reads through all the stories, only to find that the book is incomplete.

Taken From The Original Book Series

Scary Stories to tell in the Dark

Every night, new entries about Stella’s friends are scrawled into the book by a vengeful disembodied spirit. Through this narrative construct, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark leans into the iconic stories found in the original book series.

We’re introduced to stories like “The Big Toe” when Stella’s friend, Auggie, is kidnapped by a corpse searching its missing toe after it was eaten out of a stew that Auggie found in his fridge. Similarly, Ramón ends up being haunted by an antagonist known as the Jangly Man, the monster found in the “Me Tie Dough-ty Walker.”

Best Scares

Scary Stories to tell in the Dark

But the best scare found in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark involves hundreds of spiders crawling out of Ruth’s face, which is a callback to a story called “The Red Spot” that appeared in Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones.

And don’t even get us started on the living, breathing, and walking scarecrow named Harold who sits menacingly in a field while terrorizing his subjects.

Box Office Performance

Scary Stories to tell in the Dark

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark performed quite well at the global box office upon its release, earning an impressive $104.5 million against its reported budget of $28 million. Like the book that inspired it, the film adaptation is surprisingly scary for a younger audience, but isn’t terrifying enough to require an R rating. Critics and audiences alike point to the movie’s appeal as a gateway movie into the horror genre, resulting in a 77 percent critical score against an audience score of 72 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

Streaming Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark On Netflix

Scary Stories to tell in the Dark

If you’re now an adult who’s apprehensive about streaming Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark because you fear that it won’t live up to your expectations, you may end up being pleasantly surprised. Though it goes without saying that CGI renderings of the monsters pale in comparison to the original black-and-white drawings that kept you up at night when you were a child, we’ve got to give credit where it’s due.

You can stream Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark on Netflix if you’re feeling nostalgic, or just want to show your kids a more tame film adaptation of a book that was so controversial decades ago.