Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark: Old Fashioned Tales That Satisfy – Review

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, based on the books of the same name, is the latest offering to come from Guillermo del Toro. He shares credits of both producing and co-writing the screenplay and the story is as old fashioned as it is satisfying. It is, in short, a visual treat.

Directed by André Øvredal (Trollhunter, The Autopsy of Jane Doe) the film looks brilliant. If one is of a certain age, the tones, hues, and overall colour of the film looks like all those old photographs from childhood. Every frame reeks of nostalgic melancholy that feels at home with bell bottom jeans and cars that all came from Detroit.

The film offers nothing new. It does, however, take one right back to their childhood. Tales told breathlessly around campfires or, in some instances, around Ouija boards, that invoked disbelief, at first, and then, at last, a sense of dread and acceptance. It is not the tales themselves that impress so much as they way that they are presented.

Each vignette offers a sort of variation on original tales that have been updated or altered to fit this particular theme. Not having read the books, which is now on my list of things that must be done, it is not clear how well the filmmakers managed to capture the spirit of the source material.

Regardless of whether the film manages to capture the intent of author Alvin Schwartz or not is not up for discussion. It should be noted that the first iteration of these books caused an outcry amongst concerned parents. (Apparently the illustrations of Stephen Grimmell were considered quite unsuitable for the targeted age group.)

Gore factor aside, which the film manages to control rather admirably, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark entertains without offending anyone. Deftly mixing urban myths with some original myth making, the movie does produce a few jump scares. Sadly, most of the “scares” rely on the rather tired device of cranking up the sound to Boeing 767 level, but some do work without the volumetric control used too often.

There are some nice touches for the horror fan. One of the male characters (Auggie, played admirably by Gabriel Rush) sports a Halloween costume that could be right from the frames of the 1978 film Halloween. The “clown” outfit; “It’s a Pierrot,” argues Auggie repeatedly, feels like a deliberate homage to Michael Myers’ outfit in the original horror film. (While the two outfits are nothing alike, there is an odd resemblance. Enough of one, at least to this viewer, that it seemed glaringly obvious.) It should be said that there are other nods and winks to classic horror stories throughout.

The cast of the film; Rush along with Zoe Margaret Colletti, Michael Garza, Austin Zajur, Natalie Ganzhorn,  give it their all. Each convinces admirably and at no time does one ever doubt their character’s veracity. (Colletti will obviously go far in her chosen profession. She knocked it out of the park easily.) It was lovely to see firm favorite Dean Norris as the father. More of Norris would not have gone amiss but one obviously has to draw the line somewhere in terms of running time.

The cinematography is brilliant and the use of hues and tonal shifts in terms of colour works wonderfully to establish mood and direction. While it would have been interesting to see a much darker version of this movie, in other words if del Toro had directed the feature, Øvredal does an excellent job.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is not, overall, frightening. It delivers a great storyline reminiscent of Dr Terror’s House of Horrors or Asylum and does so with a certain juvenile panache. This is a kid’s film, after all, but it entertains very well. It earns a full 4 out of 5 stars for delivery and one should see it in the cinema.

Rosewood: Morris Chestnut Killing It Again (Review)

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Coming late to the Rosewood party, it has to be said up front that Morris Chestnut is killing it…again. The first time Chestnut worked his magic was as the uber annoying Tony Rice in the Sean Bean vehicle Legends.  That Morris has chops to spare has been proven on TNT with his character being the only one, apart from Bean’s, to return to the second season of the series. Now, on Fox, Chestnut has the title role in a mystery/crime drama  which has a huge dose of humor.

The show is listed as being a drama, mystery, crime mix but the humor apparent in the show is not mentioned. Granted this is not laugh out loud moments of mirth, but it is funny, because Dr. Rosewood Jr. (Chestnut) is a witty and amusing man. It says a lot for the show’s writers that one can step into the season at episode 106 and “get it.”

Rosewood’s incessant assault on Villa (Jaina Lee Ortiz, which includes a brilliant Dr. Seuss reference, after they have a falling out over his “relationship” with her therapist Kat (Nicole Ari Parker) is funny and clever and witty.

It is also touching.

The plot of Rosewood: Policies and Ponies has Villa’s boss, and Rosewood’s friend, Captain Ira Hornstock (Domenick Lombardozzi) being framed for the murder of one of his ex-wives.  Despite the fact that Ira feels like he should be played by Dean Norris, Lombardozzi has a sort of grizzled charm that makes the role just as quirky as the rest of the characters in the show.

If there is one complaint about Rosewood,  it would be its seeming attempt  to be all things to all people. Rosewood’s sister is gay and her fiancé works with her at the family business.  His mother and father are going to get divorced and Hornstock has been married multiple times with a slew of kids.

Regardless of the show’s creator appearing to cater to a large and very diverse  demographic, it is Chestnut’s Rosewood Jr.  pathologist extraordinaire that sells this show. His professional man is glib, witty, and articulate.  He is also sincere.  Morris Chestnut sells his character with scary ease and the rest of the cast do have to struggle to match his adept performance.

The plot twist in this episode was clever and, like the rest of the show, funny.  Captain Hornstock’s murdered ex-wife, who came to borrow money from him just before she was killed, wanted the money to pay for a hit she had put out on him.  Hornstock’s former wife expected her ex to pay for his own murder.

An added twist was that when she could not come up with the money for her hitman, she is murdered by the man she hired.

Gabrielle Dennis, as Rosewood’s sister Pippy, she also works with him in the pathology lab, is a great performer who exudes a natural believability and she is impressive in her role. The chemistry between her and the other actors is spot on.

The lines for this show are just brilliant as is the chemistry between Chestnut and Ortiz. For example, after dissing Rosewood and Hornstock by referring to them as “playing Cagney and Lacey,” Dr. Rosewood responds:

“Really? Really? “Cagney & Lacey”? Really?

Villa: “Relax. You’re Cagney.

Rosewood: “I want to be Lacey.”

Rosewood is an excellent mix of humor and story. Amusing, intelligent and perhaps trying that little bit too hard, the show works nonetheless.  Morris Chestnut proves that he has got some impressive chops and he is not afraid to use them.

The series airs Wednesdays  on FOX, tune in and enjoy the hell out of this cleverly written and presented crime show.

 

Under the Dome: Black Ice (Recap and Review)

Under the Dome: Black Ice (Recap and Review)

Under the Dome: Black Ice looks to be attempting to finish up this over-long adaptation of the Stephen King novel. The author showed his apparent support by showing up in a cameo at the beginning of season two. However, with the slow pace and almost complete deviation from the original source material King may start asking CBS to “let my people go.” With this week’s events the release of the trapped Chester’s Mill residents may not be that far off. There are, after all, only two episodes left in the season and the dome is moving.

Under the Dome: Stretching Stephen King to the Limit

Under the Dome: Stretching Stephen King to the Limit

After binge watching the Stephen King adaptation of Under the Dome in an effort to catch up to the second season, it is becoming apparent that the show’s producers are trying to stretch the horror master’s book to the absolute limit. Fans of the novel have probably stopped watching the CBS series quite some time ago as it does deviate a good bit from its source material.

Under the Dome Season Two Opener Stephen King Cameo Stamp of Approval *May Contain Spoilers*

Under the Dome Season Two Opener Stephen King Cameo Stamp of Approval *May Contain Spoilers*

The season two opener of Under the Dome has a Stephen King cameo that seems to show the author’s stamp of approval for the direction the show is heading. If that wasn’t proof enough that the writer likes the way things are progressing in Chester’s Mill, a behind the scenes clip, has King enthusiastically talking about how much fun he is having revisiting the denizens of the small dome enclosed community.