SCREAMING AT SCARY STORIES WITH MANDY!

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Do you want to hear a scary story?

When someone asks that question, the undeniable desire to say yes goes deeper than DNA. Something integral to most souls screams at the darkness and anxiously awaits a response to confirm the horrors we’ve always known are there. The filmmakers behind Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark skillfully explore that timeless concept, and they use the most effective medium known to man: a motley crew of captivating kids.

From The Goonies to Stranger Things, there’s nothing like coming-of-age angst to fuel an adventure, and the Scary Stories ensemble definitely has the “It” factor . . . lovable outcasts with believable quirks. This movie may not resonate with some genre fans who’ve set the meter to one extreme or another—either “Goosebumps” or hardcore horror. The viewer has the feeling that everything is going to be okay, so we’re safe on this ride, but it still takes us through the twists and tunnels of the scariest place of all, our childhood imagination.

I recently watched a documentary on the Scary Stories book series, which is a straightforward presentation of short stories that have been retold in assorted iterations across many cultures and generations. You probably can’t name the writer, because he never became wildly famous, but you’re familiar with one who provided commentary on his work: R.L. Stine. Ironically, like the Scary Stories screenwriters and director, Stine chose to fictionalize and build on the influences of folklore, and that usually is better for the bank account. The original book might have thrived as a nonfiction work for adults had it included all the research the documentary revealed the author had conducted on versions and details of the stories. Of course, the books became infamous, as they were banned from school libraries; in one way or another, their legends outlived the author who collected them.

I mention this because Scary Stories ultimately is a writer’s movie. As in numerous Stephen King classics, the main character aspires to a literary life, but first, Stella, the plucky protagonist, well played by Zoe Margaret Colletti, will have to fight for her actual life as she and her friends discover the real story behind a myth and learn that humans can be monsters.

The film is set in the Vietnam era and uses industrialism, racism, and other timely issues simply as effective context for the characters. Perhaps one of the reasons the movie is both appropriate for the PG-13 demographic and a great summertime escape for adults is that the writers brilliantly avoid personal political and social statements. The moral of the story is a commentary on the importance of telling the right story and not allowing complacency or fear to necessarily perpetuate some of the tales we’ve been told to believe.

If someone asks you to go see this “Scary Story,” say yes!

-Mandy

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