Story

In Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Auggie (Gabriel Rush) and Chuck (Austin Zajur) convince their nerdy friend Stella (Zoe Margaret Colletti) to come out for Halloween. But when the boys’ Halloween prank on town bully Tommy (Austin Abrams) goes wrong, all three teenagers end up hiding in the car of a stranger named Ramon (Michael Garza), who’s passing through town. Once the threat has passed, the teenagers decide to take Ramon to see something really spooky.

The old Bellows house is an old mansion on the edge of town. It has long been boarded up in the hope that no-one will go inside and unleash the darkness responsible for the disappearance of numerous children. Ramon easily unlocks the door, and they explore the house. Ramon and Stella uncover the entrance to a secret room where the legendary Sarah Bellows (Kathleen Pollard) was confined, weaving her web of horror stories that brought terror and death. Stella comes across Sarah’s book, which contains numerous handwritten scary stories. Stella decides to take it home to read.

Unfortunately, Sarah is angry, and the horror is unleashed through her stories once again. Now it’s up to Stella and her friends to solve the mystery of Sarah Bellows and stop the darkness before they all disappear.

Themes

Family breakdown; adolescents separated from family; teenagers as victims; familial abuse; racism

Violence

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark has some violence. For example:

  • A boy smashes a scarecrow in the face with bottles and a baseball bat.
  • A boy lights a bag of poo on fire and throws it into the car of a local bully.
  • Tommy smashes, dents and writes graffiti on Ramon’s car.
  • A creepy scarecrow stabs Tommy through the chest with a pitch fork.
  • A huge monster breaks the sheriff’s neck.
  • Ramon explains how his brother was shipped back from Vietnam in pieces.
  • Ramon smashes a monster into a truck and pins it there. It then disassembles itself, body parts falling off, and pieces itself back together again to keep chasing Ramon.
  • There’s a recording of what sounds like Sarah being tortured by her family.
  • Stella is dragged by the hair and thrown into a room.

Sexual references

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark has some sexual references. For example:

  • Chuck tells Auggie to stop ‘perving’ on his sister.
  • Chuck says that he can’t die as he hasn’t even had sex yet.

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark shows some use of substances. For example, a group of teenage bullies gets drunk on Halloween night. Tommy’s mother yells at Tommy, ‘Are you drunk again?’

Nudity and sexual activity

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark has some nudity. For example, one of the boys has a pen with an image of a woman on it. When he turns the pen, the woman’s clothes disappear.

Product placement

A Coca-Cola cup is briefly shown in one scene in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.

Coarse language

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark has some coarse language and name-calling.

Ideas to discuss with your children

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is a horror movie based on the series of books by Alvin Schwartz. It’s well-made, but it isn’t a movie for young viewers. It’s better suited to older teenagers.

The main messages from this movie are to never give up and to always remember that there is power in stories. Stories can set us free, teach us to care, make us brave enough to face our deepest fears, and help us find our way home.

Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include persistence, friendship, loyalty, courage and empathy.

This movie could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues like:

  • judging people based on ethnicity
  • bullying others
  • vandalising property and being violent to get revenge
  • hiding the truth and punishing innocent people.