Warning: This post contains spoilers for Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.
Nearly 30 years after the first Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark book hit shelves, a film adaptation of the haunting horror anthology has finally arrived. Helmed by director André Øvredal and produced by Oscar winner Guillermo del Toro, the movie unites six of the tales from author Alvin Schwartz and illustrator Stephen Gammell’s three Scary Stories books — Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (1981), More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (1984) and Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones (1991) — within an overarching plot.
The movie begins with teenage protagonist Stella (Zoe Margaret Colletti) and her friends Auggie (Gabriel Rush), Chuck (Austin Zajur) and Ramón (Michael Garza) sneaking into the Bellows family’s abandoned mansion on Halloween night. They’re later joined by town bully Tommy (Austin Abrams) and Chuck’s older sister Ruth (Natalie Ganzhorn), who are both there when Stella decides to steal the haunted notebook of Sarah Bellows (Kathleen Pollard) — a young girl who, according to town legend, turned her tortured life into a series of scary stories — from the house’s basement.
It’s only a few hours later that Tommy is attacked by the newly-animated Harold the scarecrow and becomes the first victim of the book’s dark magic. As more stories appear in the book, written in blood, Stella’s friends begin to get picked off one by one in ways that mirror the fates of characters in the book stories “The Big Toe,” “The Red Spot” and “The Dream.”
With time running out to save herself and Ramón, Stella heads to the Bellows house once again to try to speak to Sarah directly. But it’s only after she’s transported back in time, mistaken for Sarah and dragged down to the basement that she’s able to talk to Sarah’s ghost. By promising to tell the truth about Sarah’s life, Stella finally convinces her to end her rampage of revenge and everything goes back to normal.
The movie ends with Stella, her dad (Dean Norris) and Ruth — who has made a full recovery from a terrifying spider incident — driving away from Mill Valley while Stella delivers a voiceover about how they intend to find Auggie and Chuck and bring them back.
It’s a more comforting resolution than the books offer. But considering there are plenty more stories to choose from in the three Scary Stories books, and add to that Stella’s stated mission to recover the vanished boys, the somewhat open-ended conclusion definitely seems to hint that a sequel could be on the way.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is now in theaters.