starring Zoe Margaret Colletti, Michael Garza, Gabriel Rush, Dean Norris
screenplay by Dan Hageman & Kevin Hageman, based on the series by Alvin Schwartz
directed by André Øvredal
by Walter Chaw André Øvredal's Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (hereafter Scary Stories) is a dulcet, autumnal picture balanced right there between the endless summers of dandelion wine and the interminable and harsh winters of brutality that lie ahead. A project based on a beloved series of children's books by Alvin Schwartz, it transcends its source by understanding the true function of little nightmares: the stories we tell our kids to begin to toughen them up for lives spent in this hell. Scary Stories unfolds, essentially, in the days between Halloween, 1968 and Election Night (November 5th) of that same year, when Richard Nixon won the Presidency on a date that disrupted 36 years of New Deal expansion. Hubert Humphrey was the Democratic nominee, but only after Bobby was shot (just a short while after Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot); the beheading of the Democratic party's progressive soul was now complete. George Wallace, a piece of shit still somehow not as repugnant as Donald Trump, carried five states that night by promising racial segregation. Old footage of Walter Kronkite delivering the results of the election provides the background for a young woman, Stella (Zoe Margaret Colletti), trying in vain to convince the adults that things are not going to be okay before calling her recently-widowed dad to tell him that all the disappointments of the world are not his alone to carry. It would be instructive to watch Scary Stories as the warm-up feature for Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood. Both occupy the same dream-space, the same halcyon "the past" where everything is possible until it isn't anymore. The surprise is that of the two films, it's Scary Stories that is the less hopeful.