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.

Dr Ken: D.K.’s Korean Ghost Story – Gwishin Formula (Review)

KEN JEONG, ALBERT TSAI, DANA LEE

Dr. Ken this week may be the funniest, and most educational, episode yet. D.K. tells a Korean ghost story so terrifying that Dave and Ken both freak out.  It is a gwishin formula to stop the youngest Park from growing up too soon.

It is Halloween and down at Welltopia everyone is dressed up except for Pat who is only interested in getting invited to any parties. After mentioning his availability, Allison tells Clark that Dave is growing up way too fast.

He has decided that 11 is too old to trick or treat on Halloween. Instead Dave will hand out candy to his classmates. Molly is rushing to find a costume for a last minute party change and D.K. suggests rolling in the garden and going as a “dirt person.” Molly is not impressed.

Allison tries to scare Dave but he is not having it.  He says that the only things that frighten him are social security and the ripples from Brexit. D.K. offers to tell his grandson a Korean ghost story; a gwishin tale that he never told Ken because it is too scary.

Dave is up for the challenge and so is Ken.

In the story, Ken plays a young boy who decides he is now a grown up. He no longer needs his mum to walk him to the boy’s school by the haunted lake.

Allison plays his mum and reminds him not to stray from the path and to go straight to school. Ken recites the directions to the establishment, kisses his mother on the cheek and skips off to school.

KRISTA MARIE YU, KEN JEONG, ALBERT TSAI, DANA LEE

Along the way he meets several traditional Korean ghosts (gwishin) they are all played by Damona, Pat, Molly, D.K. and Clark. (Sort of a The Wizard of Oz touch.)

Pat is a Chonggak Gwishin, a bachelor ghost who is eternally lonely. D.K. is the Korean grim reaper; Joseung Saja, Damona plays the Gumiho Gwishin (a ghost with several fox tails – foxes are spirit animals who are mischievous) and Molly is a Mul Gwishin; a water ghost with really long arms.

Clark plays another school boy that the Gumiho caught years before and he is now doomed to assist her forever.

As D.K. tells his ghost story, Molly comes down periodically to get reactions to her costume choices. The first is Ken’s wedding tux which gets vetoed by Ken.

The second is his old breakdancing outfit, which is vetoed by Molly as the backend has been split open.

Finally, at the bit of the story where the Mul Gwishin reaches for Ken, she comes down in a bathrobe with her hair dangling down in front of her face. Ken screams and runs out of the room.

Molly is pleased. “Creepy cat lady it is.”

D.K. reaches the climax of the tale (Ken loses his face) and a terrified Dave runs screaming upstairs to get a comforting hug from his mum, Allison. (Just like he used to.)

Ken crawls out from under the bed just enough  to repeat  “I ain’t ‘fraid of no gwishin.”

“D.K.’s Korean Ghost Story” was set up brilliantly. The banter at Welltopia allowed us to hear the backstory of Dave’s being scared by Allison so she could hug her boy. She misses this since he is in such a rush to grow up.

Standout Moments:

Molly coming down in that bathrobe with her hair down in her face. Anyone who watches J-Horror, or K-Horror recognized that longhaired ghost girl bit. Brilliant.

KRISTA MARIE YU
Scary Cat Lady

Dave screaming and running up the stairs. Albert Tsai sold that one, in spades.

Ghost nuts.

“Ceeya later.”

The running commentary by Dave and Ken…”Why on earth would they  build a boy’s school in this area?”

“Dirt person.” “Now I have 29 minutes.”

Ken’s picking on Allison, “Not dressing up this year.”

Allison and her witch’s cackle.

Damona’s warning cough.

Clark and that bobble on his Korean school hat.

Pat as the lonely bachelor gwishin.

Molly shuffling in the breakdance outfit.

“I ain’t ‘fraid of no gwishin.”

The foot in the well.

“How are you a doctor?”

“After these messages…”

Final Thoughts:

This episode not only addressed that parental concern about kids rushing to grow up, a theme addressed last year between Ken and Molly, but it celebrated the Park family’s culture. (On Ken side’s at least, as Allison is Japanese. Perhaps next year?)

It was nice to see that Allison has the same issues about losing Dave. That touching moment where she silently thanks D.K. for scaring her boy right back into childhood was brilliant.

Mad props to Dana Lee who rocked it in this episode. His “crypt keeper” job was flawless.  The entire cast knocked it out of the park in this episode. Both Albert Tsai and Ken Jeong were hysterically funny with their respective screams.

If it has not been pointed out yet, we just need to mention that in oh so many ways, Dave Foley is a comic genius. If you do not think so, look at his performance here. Brilliant.

Dr. Ken keeps the comedy coming in this season and this episode is, so far, a series high. This is one that shot right into “personal favorite” status as it combined belly laughs with Korean ghosts, aka gwishin.

This ensemble cast have hit their stride and everyone brings their own brand of comedy to the Dr. Ken table. May this family friendly comedy run on and on.

Dr. Ken airs Fridays on ABC.  Tune in and get your gwishin formula for Halloween.

Cast:

SyFy Gears Up for Another 31 Days of Halloween

"SyFy" New Logo, SCI FI ChannelNBC Universal Logos

It is that time of year again.  Crisp autumn nights, bonfires and the month of “tricks or treats” are but a day away as is SyFy’s “31 Days of Halloween.” The annual celebration,  with its immense collection of spooky shows on offer,  starts off with a brilliant new series.

The “October Spook-a-thon” will feature the Channel Zero: Candle Cove premiere on October 11. It will also include five “made for” SyFy films and air some new features from the big screen.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,  The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Zombieland,  I, Frankenstein, Cabin in the Woods, Drag Me to Hell, The Strangers, Wrong Turn and Maleficent will all be shown to celebrate the season.

On top of these cinematic treats, SyFy will be airing some original films on Saturday nights.  The Crooked Man, The Night Before Halloween and a sequel to the brilliant Stake LandStake Land 2.

All of the regularly programmed shows will continue to air throughout the month:  Van Helsing, Z Nation and Aftermath will continue uninterrupted.

As well as this terrifying lineup of toe curling horror, Syfy will explore some creepy Halloween lore and present a load of  horror film trivia throughout the month.

SyFy will also take the audience right into the action at  Universal Studios with their “Halloween Horror Nights” and include some fan interviews. Syfy.com and  Blastr.com, will provide some great accompanying treats that will include daily Top 13 lists.

There will also be some amazing party tips to help make your party scream along, horror trope bingo cards and interviews with genre experts.

SyFy’s social channels will ask viewers to  show off their best trick or treat outfits and Halloween decorations along with their finest bloodcurdling screams.  SyFy’s Snapchat and Instagram accounts  will feature the scariest entries.

On  October 31 viewers  can celebrate Halloween with the Syfy social team inside the New York City Greenwich Village Halloween Parade via Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram.

The SyFy schedule for the 31 Days of Halloween is as follows:
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 1 at 9/8c – The Crooked Man stars Michael Jai White  and Amber Benson .

Synopsis:
Singing a nursery rhyme summons the demonic Crooked Man. Once The song is sung, everybody in the house will be killed by the summoned demon.

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 8 at 9/8c – Day of Reckoning stars Raymond J. Barry and Barbara Crampton.

Synopsis:

Years ago, the world experienced a “day of reckoning.” Creatures came up from beneath the Earth and purged humanity of evil. Looks like it is  happening all over again.

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 11 at 9/8c – Premiere of Channel Zero: Candle Cove. 

Synopsis:

A man’s is obsessed with his memories of a children’s TV show from the ’80’s and his belief that the show caused a series of deadly and nightmarish events.

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SATURDAY, OCTOBER 15 at 9/8c –Stake Land 2 starring Conor Paolo, Nick Damici and Laura Abramsen.

Synopsis:
Vampires have evolved. Mister has to save an innocent young woman from a brotherhood of Evil.

SATUDAY, OCTOBER 22 at 9/8c –Shadows of the Dead

Synopsis:
A group of teenagers must get away from a creature that lives and hunts in the shadows.  The thing is killing them off one by one.

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 29 at 9/8c – The Night Before Halloween starring Bailee Madison and Anthony Lemke (Marcus Boone from Dark Matter)

Synopsis:

A Halloween prank goes wrong and unleashes  a monster that tracks down  all the participants. It will kill them all unless they can divert the murderous creature to someone else.

SyFy has gone all out to make this years 31 Days of Halloween as scary as possible.  Tune in and catch up on Mister and Martin in Stake Land 2 or to see just what Anthony Lemke gets up to when he is not Number Three on Dark Matter.

Or stop by to see Johnny Depp in that barbershop.

With plenty of scares on offer, there is a lot to choose from. Stop by or compete in the contests.   The celebration starts 1 October with  The Crooked Man.

Scream Queens: Black Friday – Stating the Obvious (Review)

Scream Queens has, thus far, been a lot of fun to watch. Black Friday, with the start of the episode featuring Chanel Oberlin (Emma Roberts) torturing the poor downtrodden American overweight and unwashed who watch helplessly as she scoops all the best bargains is on par with the level of comedy this show has to offer.

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Scream Queens has, thus far, been a lot of fun to watch. Black Friday, with the start of the episode featuring Chanel Oberlin (Emma Roberts) torturing the poor downtrodden American overweight and unwashed who watch helplessly as she scoops all the best bargains is on par with the level of comedy this show has to offer. .The storyline, of the girls deciding to murder Dean Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis) with its Rasputin theme was brilliant.

Right up until the writers decided to treat the viewer as though they had the same intelligence levels as the characters in Kappa Kappa Tau, or the single remaining Dickie Dollar Scholar Chad Radwell (Glen Powell). Stating the obvious, Hester (Lea Michele) goes on to state the obvious connection in case, you know, the viewer  missed the whole Rasputin thing. 

The gags still worked, Hester does wait until after the Cryosauna fails to work but once she tells the group about the “mystic monk” and the many attempts to murder the man, along with the fact that the man managed to partially free himself before drowning after being, poisoned, shot, beaten and thrown in the frozen river where his body was later found, the urge to slap the writer became almost unbearable.

Still the remaining bit of the storyline worked until that lame scene between Chanel and Munsch as the deserted pool.  Was it just this viewer who found that to be a yawn to the nth? Perhaps someone found it to be entertaining but is just did not flow…

Standout moments:

Chanel Oberlin being shot with the crossbow and surviving.  Funny and revealing.

Denise Hemphill finally getting a gun and becoming a) A real cop and b) the chief of police and c)failing to shoot the red devil when she has the chance. For the first time since her introduction, Hemphill was actually funny rather than annoying as hell.

*Sidenote* This was, however,  a missed moment.  The red devil lets off the crossbow bolt and misses Denise by a mile killing  another cop instead. 

Chad Radwell attempting to recruit Pete Martinez (Diego Boneta) to the very empty frat house and kudos to actor Glen Powell for being able to say Dickie Dollar Scholars repeatedly without messing up. (Any bets as to how many takes this scene took?) 

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Dean Munsch and ZayDay talking Gigi’s roasted head.

ZayDay Williams (KeKe Palmer) tearfully admitting that the roasted head of Gigi Caldwell, aka Jess Meyer, (Is this a reference to Halloween? Michael Meyers?) actually smelled pretty tasty…

Pete and Grace’s dad bonding over researching Gigi’s past and the sex talk between Wes and Grace who then decides that she is ready to bed Pete…

Honorable Mention:

The whole cryosauna bit had to a be an obvious nod and wink to Jason X where the indestructible baddie from the Friday the 13th franchise is cryogenically frozen and then comes back to life in space.  Nice touch.

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Dean Munsch getting her Jason X on…

Thoughts:

Overall the episode was a bit like its title.  Like Black Friday, which is full of desperate people trying to buy things on sale and then feeling let down when they miss the bargain of a century, the episode feels like a  bit of a let down.

Pete appears to be confessing, a least twice, that he is “one of the killers.” (There are more than two remember?) So there is still that person on the other end of the cell phone who must also be a murderer.  Points given for keeping the suspect list high.

The bit where Grace and Chanel both decided to kill the dean and poison her was a nice touch, as was Wes’ zeroing in on Gigi’s (Jess’) liking his playlists.

And finally…Anticlimactic is the best way to describe the pool scene between Chanel #1 and Dean Munsch.  Granted, the series, which has not been approved for another season yet, has only one more two-hour episode left in its first run but that was just blah.

This was the penultimate episode since FOX has combined the final two episodes for a finale. Usually, the slamming together of the season’s last two segments  is a bad sign.  In this case though  it may just be FOX trying to get the series over before Christmas TV begins.

Certainly Ryan Murphy is planning on a “Sleepaway Camp” theme for season two, but whether this transpires or not has not been confirmed by the network. FOX have not  greenlit giving the series another chance to air next year.

Scream Queens is a funny, irreverent look at sorority horror films and the series shows what can be done with a  splendid mix of comedy and slasher horror.  The two hour finale airs on December 8. Tune in and see who makes it to the end, four, or, as Oliver Hudson has hinted, five. 

Big Hero 6: A Spoonful of Nerd

Big Hero 6: A Spoonful of Nerd

Big Hero 6 proves that Disney belongs firmly in the world of animation, the super hero organization origins story has a huge dose of humor and a large spoonful of nerd which combine to entertain thoroughly. In 2013, the studios that Walt built presented Frozen with a Disney princess that bowled every kid over across the world. On a side note, the biggest selling item for little girls to wear for Halloween this year was (drumroll please) Elsa costumes from the animated feature. Not to put too fine a point on it, but a sure sign of success of any film for kids is the successful merchandising afterward.