Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark
Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark is a classic children’s book series from Craig and Todd’s childhood. This movie adaptation takes the imagery from the book’s nightmarish illustrations, and the urban legend tales that spooked us out so much as kids, and combines them into a “kids’ horror film” that manages to be the dark, twisted, no-holds-barred kids’ horror film that we have often lamented from our childhoods. A pleasant surprise and a fun film to talk about.
Scary Stories to Tell In The Dark (2019)
Episode 213, 2 Guys and a Chainsaw
Todd: . Hello and welcome to another episode of two guys and a chainsaw. I’m Todd
Craig: and I’m Craig.
Todd: Well, it’s request extravaganza right now. Actually, two people requested today’s film, Scary Stories to Tell In the Dark, Frank and Karthik. So to Frank and Karthik, thank you so much for requesting this 2019 film because I was super excited for the excuse to watch this.
You know, normally we don’t do these more recent movies. But we’re going through requests, and I remember this book series so well from when I was a kid. I think you have to Craig, right?
Craig: Am I missing? Yeah.
Todd: Yeah. This was the thing. The first of these books was, came out in 1981 which was actually earlier than I thought.
The second one in 80. Four and I think the third one in 92 or 89 just before the author Alvin Schwartz had died. He was a very prolific children’s author and journalist did quite a few books, but definitely most famous for this series of books. And it’s not just. His writing, which is actually, it’s a collection of urban legends and folktales, many of which I had as a kid, you know, being pretty young, had never heard before this.
So this is a good way to bone up on your urban legends and folktales, is to just get all three books in this series and plow through them. They’re all super creepy. They’re the kinds of campfire stories and bedtime stories that people tell to get scared mostly from. American folklore, but probably the thing that really made this series work where the illustrations that go along with it.
I just elevated this book like two 11 yeah, Steven Gamble did the illustrations. Now he’s still alive and he’s illustrated many, many, many books, but he also was probably most famous for illustrating this series of books, and there’s just something about the illustrations. They’re abstract enough. And also a little gory and extremely creepy, but they’re in black and white and they’re in this against semi-abstract abstracted pen and ink thing to just kind of be acceptable, but very edgy for kids.
So my parents who were pretty protective, not super protective, but could get pretty protective about what I read and what I watched. They thought this, these books were fine for me, but libraries all across the country. We’re getting inundated at one point, I think at various points in history, um, requests from parents like take these books off your shelf.
They’re too gory. They’re too scary. They don’t, they’re not for kids. Well, they are for kids. Kids can handle material like this. They really can. And I personally feel like they should, but in any case, these creepy ass stories along with these creepy ass illustrations just make for three. Wonderful, wonderful books.
And it is the subject of this movie. Uh, and so yeah, I hadn’t seen this movie. I didn’t watch it last year when it came out. I fully expected this to be like an anthology type movie with a wraparound story. And I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it wasn’t. So that’s going to be really interesting to talk about because that you would think would be your first approach, right?
Is to just take a bunch of the stories in this book and anthologized them and then make a, just share a series of movies out of it. But that is not the direction that the producer, Guillermo Del Toro wanted to take with this. And I think it was a pretty decent choice. So anyway, Craig, uh, what is your history with this movie?
Craig: Oh, well, I saw it shortly after it came out. Um, I was excited to see it too, for the same reasons that you were. I mean, I grew up with these books. I can’t remember exactly how old I was, but young, probably like primary school. Um, and these books, I remember like the most exciting thing for me. Primary school were book fairs, like, yeah, book fairs where it, it was like Christmas, you know, like these outside companies would come to your school and set up these huge displays of books.
And I always remember seeing these books there. And of course I convinced my parents somehow to get them for me, not because of the content that I had to convince them, but because we were poor. But yeah, I, I, I’ve always been into horror ever since I was a little kid. My dad was into it. And at first, you know, I kind of tried sneaking around, watching movies, you know, from behind the couch when he didn’t know.
And they very quickly just realized that I was into it and kind of let me see whatever I wanted to see. Um, but these books, they were as frightening to me in a fun way as a lot of those horror movies that I would sit and watch with my dad, even though, you know. The stories are really simple. Most of them are a page or a couple of pages long.
Yeah, but like you said, the illustrations were just fantastic. And I remember sometime, gosh, I don’t know, it’s probably been 10 years ago or more, they reissued these books with different illustrations from a different illustrator, and as soon as I heard that they were going to do that, I jumped on Amazon or.
EBay or something and swiped up copies of the original three because I wanted to make sure that I had in my possession those originals with the original illustrations. Well, I guess that the new edition didn’t go over particularly well. I don’t know who’s. Idea that was, I think it was a really foolhardy idea because the illustrations were a large part of the appeal, uh, originally.
And I think that they’ve gone back, uh, since then to the original illustrations be I loved the books. I was really excited to see the movie. Yeah. And I was pleasantly surprised because I expected this to be a kids’ movie, and one could make the argument that it is, but it’s a little bit atypical in terms of horror movies for kids because I think this movie is genuinely scary and it doesn’t pull punches the way that a lot of horror movies for kids do.
Um, the stakes, the stakes are high. Uh, in the movie and people die and well, presumably, and not just the bad guys, some of the, some of the good guys and the people that you’re rooting for. Get it in this movie too. Uh, and that’s kind of atypical and I appreciate it. I still think that it’s something that young people who are into this kind of thing can handle, but, uh, it’s a little bit darker than I had anticipated, and I was pleasantly surprised by that.
Todd: Yeah, me too. And I would say it’s still a kids movie, but it’s definitely on that PG 13 edge of. Um, maybe not your elementary school student, you know, maybe your upper elementary or middle school kid could watch this. Yeah. I think I as a sixth grader would have eaten this movie. I was a little atypical in that and just a lot like you, I think.
But yeah, it does really do a fine job of riding that edge. It’s got a little bit of Gore in it. It’s got a surprising amount of violence. It’s not exploitative in that way. It’s just these are the creepy things. These are the creepy monsters. It’s all in service to the story and where it could go further, it doesn’t, so, you know, it’s, it’s a pretty decent mix.
And I think Guillermo Del Toro is kind of the perfect guy to do this. In a way. The movie reflects the book in that tone. It is a little gory. It’s a little gross. It’s a little spooky. It’s a little scary visually and the content, but not so far as. Do you would say, this is really inappropriate for children, like reading some Stephen King novel or something like
Todd: So rides that line and he’s good at that. You know, he did Pan’s labyrinth. He did a movie called, was it, are you afraid of the dark? Is that right? With little creatures run around the darkness, which I. Kind of see more as a kids movie as well, but it’s also genuinely scary, I think. And that’s a remake actually, of another film, so,
Gosh, I think you have the title wrong. I think it’s, don’t be afraid. I don’t know, but I know what you’re talking about.
Craig: So yeah, Del Toro was the producer, and I definitely see his influence. Here. Um, but the director is a guy named Andre Overdahl, who I think is Norwegian or something like that. He did troll Hunter, which was a great movie.
Have you seen that movie?
Todd: It’s been on my list forever and I haven’t seen it. You should check it out.
Craig: It’s really good. He also did a movie, an English language movie called the autopsy of Jane DOE, which is kind of a weird movie, but also really atmospheric and I really enjoyed it. So the director too is a really talented guy and it shows, I mean, the movie is really well made.
It’s really cool to look at lots of interesting visuals and good story, which I feel like we better get into because the movie is only an hour and 48 minutes long. I took so many notes because so much happened. I mean, obviously we’re probably going to have to skip some things, but it hits the ground running and it doesn’t stop.
And until the last scene really, I was pretty impressed by how much content there was
Todd: and I, and like I said earlier, I was really impressed that it wasn’t an anthology film. I couldn’t believe that I, I really expected that. And that’s not what we got.
Craig: Yeah. Well, there’s another movie came out right around this time.
RL Stein. Uh, what were his books? Bumps. Goosebumps. Yeah. There was a goosebumps movie that did something very similar to this one, and that they incorporated. Uh, all the stories were not all, but some of the more famous stories into a larger narrative, I think was less success than this movie. I saw that movie to start Jack Black.
It was all right. I thought it was okay. Um, I thought kids might like it. I wasn’t a huge fan. I think that this one was more successful in the way that they put it together. And maybe that just has to do with the content. I don’t know. But, uh, the movie opens up. With a monologue from our main character whose name is Stella, played by Zoe Coletti.
All these young actors. Yeah. I don’t really know them from anything. It could just be because I’m old. You know, they may, the kids out there may know these folks, but I don’t, but it starts out with a monologue that’s repeated again. At the end, the stories heal. Stories hurt. If we repeat them often enough, they become real.
They make us who we are. They have such power. I learned on the very last autumn of her childhood, and then it cuts to 1968 we’re in mill Valley, Pennsylvania, which is a fictional town, potentially based on a real town in Pennsylvania where this mill stoked the economy of this small town, but eventually the mill when it was a paper mill and when paper products, uh.
For example, the U S mail started demanding less paper because of electronics and technology. They kind of went under. Um, so there’s a little tiny bit of basis in reality there, but fictional place, and we just get this kind of brief panoramic kind of view of some of our characters. We’re introduced to Stella.
Uh, as I already mentioned, kind of our narrator main character. We see her in her room, which is. The walls are covered with all these old horror movies. Um, and we see that she’s a writer and she’s writing her own stories and she’s kind of seems like, you know, your typical, a typical teenage girl, maybe a little bit.
Angsty, not really in with the popular crowd has kind of her own little band of misfits. Um, her friends are Augie, uh, played by Gabriel Rush and Chuck Austin I think, and it’s Halloween night and they are going to go out for one last. Hurrah. I guess Stella kind of feels like they’re kind of getting old for this Halloween stuff, but they’re going to go out for this one last hurrah and they’re all in costume.
Augie is, what did he say was like a Perot or something? He, he’s a clown.
Todd: He’s a clown. It’s supposed to be a highfalutin clown,
Craig: like a hierarchy, whatever. Stella’s a witch. And Chuck asked his mom to make him a Spiderman con costume, but she took it very literally and just made him. A spider man. It was hilarious,
Todd: which is pretty funny.
Craig: And right away they play a prank on the town bully who is Tommy, who is a jock of some indeterminate sport. And uh, he’s got
Todd: a group.
Craig: Oh goons that he runs around with, and he’s also on a date with Ruth, played by Natalie Gans Orn, who is also Chuck’s sister. But these three kids prank, it’s a really clever prank.
They load up. They’re Halloween sacks with gross, nasty stuff. So when Tommy and his goons drive by and try to steal their candy, they actually steal this, you know, bag of nasty crap. And then when the guys, the jocks turn around to come back for their revenge or whatever, they throw flaming dog poop at them, which goes in the car, which is seems kind of dangerous.
Todd: This is a prank you could kind of get away with in the sixties right? Said, it’s so interesting to me that this movie is set in 1968 we’re constantly reminded of that because it’s on the nights of the election. It’s like the day before and the day of the election. The Vietnam war is going bad as a thread that goes through the film as well.
I was really, I don’t know, I was looking for thematic tie-ins here. Maybe I picked up on a few, but I did wonder if I was missing something here. Did you get a sense for why it was so important. That the election be going on the Vietnam war in this be set in 1968? Or, or was it just, uh,
Craig: well, 1968 was a really rough year, right.
If I remember correctly from history, you know, the Vietnam war was going on. I, I feel like, um, the Kent state massacre was that year Nixon was up for, I don’t remember if it was election or reelection, uh, but it’s, it’s his night. The biggest one that I saw was how a lot of the movie is about fear. And anger and how fear and anger can be really destructive forces.
And it was a really scary time with, you know, the conflict in Vietnam going on in the nation was really divided about that. And we were sending our young men, uh, off to Vietnam, and what many thought was, you know, not something that we should be involving ourselves with. And there were a lot of casualties and, and it does end up.
Being kind of a thread about, you know, kind of overcoming fear. So I think that maybe is why they chose to set it in that time period. It worked for me and I was really happy that it was set in this time period, because, you know, I love contemporary horror and I, you know, I love the modern amenities that we have in things, but some of the.
Tension gets taken out of stories when people are so easily connected. You know, I like that. We just don’t, we don’t have to have the, Oh, we’re out in the middle of the forest, so I don’t have cell reception. Like I get so sick of that conversation and movies now. So I like that, you know, these people are.
Just a little bit more isolated because they’re not so connected by technology. And that kind of raises the stakes a little bit. So I was pleased that they chose to set it in an earlier time.
Todd: Yeah, I agree with you. I felt, if anything, that was a, that was a good aspect.
Craig: The, uh, the bullies chase them, um, to, uh, drive in where they hide in this guy’s car, who they don’t know.
And his name is Ramon. Played by Martin Michael Garza. Nice looking kid. I guess he had to, uh, submit auditions for this two or three times before he was cast, but he was really interested in getting into it. And eventually the casting director changed. And so he submitted one last shot and he got in and he’s this guy, they don’t know, but he lets them in their car to hide from the bullies.
The bullies eventually find them. Um, and her all some racist stuff at Ramon cause he’s of a different ethnicity. I don’t know. They call them
Craig: Yeah, because they’re in public. Nothing really goes down here. You just know that the jocks know who they are and they’re after him or whatever. But they eventually go away for the time being.
And Stella says, well it is Halloween, Ramon, do you want to see our local haunted house? And he’s like, sure, why not? So they go check out this haunted house and that’s where we get. Kind of the backstory for the spooky stuff that’s going to be going on for the rest of the time.
Todd: Yeah. Stella seems to know a lot about the local legends, probably because she’s really interested in writing and interested in horror and this kind of stuff.
Uh, and this house belonged to a very wealthy family who owned the mill at one time. Yeah. And the legend is that they had this young girl that nobody had ever seen before. Like they were embarrassed by her appearance or something. So there were no pictures of her that existed. Nobody had ever seen her, but they kept her locked up in the house.
She would tell stories through the walls of her internal prison there two people, scary stories. Uh, and then we end up getting a lot more backstory about why she was locked up and kind of why the family was embarrassed and some intrigue and things that was going on with the family themselves. But at this time, they’re just exploring a creepy sort of haunted house.
And Ramon, well, when, when he’s with Stella finds a little opening in the kitchen that leads to a downstairs seller. Really elaborate downstairs cellar area that even has a chamber within a chamber, and that turns out to be where Sarah was kept. So they find her old room and it’s really creepy and spooky.
And Stella finds a book in there. And this book when she opens it up, is Sarah’s handwritten book of stories. And it does not illustrated. Um, and not even all the pages are written on only really the first, I don’t know, third or quarter of the book has stories written on it and the rest of it is blank.
And at this time, people, the bullies have followed them to this house and they lock them in the basement. And as they’re begging to be let out, and, uh, the girl, uh, Ruth. Who’s still with the bullies is like, come on, come on, let me let me, you know what, my brother out, let’s stop doing it. Ah, this guy opens up the door and shoves her down there as well with them and closes it.
I don’t know. Was he like, he just acted like he was on something the whole time, like, like he was on some kind of drugs or was he just drunk? I don’t know
Craig: what it was, but he was drunk. Yeah. I mean, he is, he’s a pretty flat character. I mean, he’s just painted as, as the bullying. Yeah. Yeah. And I think that that’s kind of for a purpose cause he’s the first one to get dispatched, you know, through, you don’t want to like him too much.
But, uh, yeah, I mean, th the whole deal with her telling the stories through the wall, the, the big controversy was supposedly after she told these kids the stories they would go missing. And there are, you know, there’s records of, during that time period, all of these children going missing. So, you know, there was this stigma around her and around them.
The family. And the rumor was that she hung herself, uh, at some point, uh, in the house. And then after that, the family kind of went away. But when they’re down there and they, they find that book, they get locked in. Um, another part of the legend is that if you. Came to the house after dark, and you asked Sarah to tell you a story.
She would, um, but then you would die. So of course, Stella,
Craig: they’re locked down there. She’s like, okay, Sarah, tell us a story. And then spooky thing, like they hear spooky noises. Yeah. And somehow mysteriously the door opens, even though nobody else is there. We already know that there definitely is supernatural stuff going on too, because at one point Chuck gets separated for the rest of them, from the rest of them in the house, and he hides in a closet to try to scare Augie.
But when he opens up the closet just to peek out, it’s as though he’s been transported back in time and he’s, you know, the, the, the house is lit and it looks new. There is a creepy old lady and like a Doberman sitting there. And so he closes the door again, and when he opens it again, it’s gone. But obviously weird stuff is going on and once they finally get out of there, Stella’s wish for a story comes true.
She flips through the book. And she flips past the last page, but then when she flips back, the last blank page has been filled in. Uh, and the title of this story is Harold, and she touches the ink, which by the way, is supposed to be the blood of the children that Sarah killed. And it’s fresh it smears and Harold is.
The story of this, uh, scary scarecrow that we’ve seen before. It’s a scarecrow on Tommy’s family’s farm. And she starts reading this story and we see it playing out. Tommy goes home, his mom’s mad at him cause it’s late and he’s drunk. And she says, you were supposed to deliver eggs to this family across the field or whatever.
And he’s like, do I have to do it now? And she’s like, yeah, you have to do it right now. Stella. Is reading this story about Tommy delivering eggs and what’s going on, and what happens is this really pretty frightening, uh, scarecrow. That’s like crawling in bugs. The bugs are crawling out of its ice sockets and out of its mouth and stuff.
It comes to life. And at first. It just kind of repositions itself at different places in the field. So Tommy keeps coming across it, but eventually it just full on comes to life. Tommy grabs a Pitchfork and pitchforks it, but it doesn’t have any effect on it. And the scarecrow pulls the Pitchfork out of itself and then pitchforks, Tommy.
Yeah. And you see it come out. Of his chest and the blood coming out of his shirt. And then there’s a really pretty great, you know, CGI effect, where Tommy becomes a scarecrow, like the straw starts growing out of his mouth and his ears and his hands turned into scarecrow hands. Granted, it’s dark, which is good, but it looks.
Pretty darn good. And I have to say just from this one scene alone, I am a little bit surprised that they got the PG 13 rating. This is pretty brutal for PG 13 to have a kid, I mean, he’s a teenager, but he’s still a kid. Get brutally killed in this way. I didn’t see it going that dark, especially that fast, and that may be really.
The most violent death, or at least the goriest, I guess maybe.
Todd: Yeah, it was surprising. And you know, when you see those times come through his stomach, I was like, Oh my gosh, that was crazy. But I don’t remember there actually being blood. I remembered there being straw from the very get go that came out from around where those times were.
But, um, I dunno. Maybe, maybe I’m wrong. I don’t
Craig: know. Maybe you’re right.
Todd: But maybe that was the only way they got away with it was because it was so supernatural and there wasn’t any blood involved that, but still, it’s very, very disturbing. Later on, we see him, you know, we see the scarecrow in the middle of the field is dressed.
Like Tommy. I guess the idea is now Tommy is the scarecrow. I don’t remember the story from the book, but it’s clear as day to me that they took the visual design of this monster is directly from the illustrations in the book, and they’ve done that with the monsters that we encounter through here. Very clearly, they’ve been taken, whether they were taken from another story and plopped in this one.
Or whatnot. They’ve still definitely taken the character designs from the illustrations and made them put them in the movie, which I liked that aspect of it. As a fan of the books, it was nice to see that nod to it. Right after that happens, Stella and Ramon go out to investigate because they’ve heard the Tommy’s missing and they, and she’s read this story and they go out to the field and that’s when they discover the scarecrow dressed like him.
But of course, what can they say? You know, they can’t really tell anybody this book. She tries to return the book. She goes right back to that place. She goes down in there to the basement and she puts the book right back on the shelf. In the meantime, Ruth has this, Oh gosh, I knew that. I knew where this was coming and going right away because.
I remember the story so well
Craig: from the book, but
Todd: Ruth has a little bump on her face that from, from probably she thinks like from when she was in the, uh, going through all that mess and the mansion or whatever, that she got a spider bite and it’s just kind of bothering her a little bit. We get a little bit of, um, precursor to what’s about to happen to her with that, but, uh, when they come back, the book has reappeared.
Ramona’s. Standing there, reading it in her bedroom, and she’s like, where did you get that from? And he’s like, Oh, it was, it was right here. You didn’t know you had it. She’s like, I put that book away on his like, well, it’s right here now. And then they open the book and as they’re looking at the book, a page starts writing it.
Craig: The edge of the guardian when she saw a big toe, it looks nice and clumsy, set up kind of stories.
Ah, Oh, he do not eat anything. You’re in the next story, whatever you do. I remember that one. That was one of the ones that I vividly remembered. Like you said, these are urban legends. Um, and so even in the story, what are the books? What you’re reading is. One version. I mean, these stories have been passed around forever.
And then, you know, in the story, somebody, you know, she makes the stew, she eats the stew, and then the corpse comes back. Where’s my big toe? Well, like you said, they’re scared because they see Auggie’s name, but of course he’s not taking it seriously. It seems, you know, stupid or like a prank or whatever.
But he also has fished out this big pot of stew out of his refrigerator. And I just thought that this whole setup was so funny cause he’s on the phone with his mom and he’s being snarky like a teenager complaining about his stepdad and how she’s never home. And, and then he’s like, well I guess I’m just going to eat the stew then.
And you don’t hear her side of the conversation, but he’s like the stew in the refrigerator will somebody made it.
Craig: And so he pulls it out and he’s spooning around in it. And like, you see the toe float up to the top, it’s so gross. Oh God. Uh, and eventually, you know, they’re, they’re screaming at him over the walkie talkie. Don’t do it. Don’t
Todd: do anything.
Craig: They don’t even know he has this stew. But, uh, he does, he eats it and like, he takes one bite of it.
Then he takes another and he gets the whole toe at his mouth. Oh,
Todd: at least he spits it out. I mean, the implication is he ate, he ate more because he, you know, flings it away and knocks the pot over and on the floor in the pot, there’s like an eyeball and just random chunks of meat. It is disgusting. And he’s retching and he goes upstairs.
Meanwhile, they’re kind of narrating the story to him. They’re like, you’re going to hear. Somebody saying, you know, where’s my toe? Where’s my tone? They’re like, do you hear it? You hear it? He’s like, no, the only person I hear saying that is you. And then after like the third time, suddenly he does hear something faintly.
It freaks him out and he drops the walkie talking. He kind of runs upstairs and as he goes into his bedroom. We see this corpse come into the house without a toe. It comes up the stairs, it goes down the hallway, and it is disgusting. And it, again, that looks like one of the most vivid illustrations out of that book.
It’s a fantastic design and it’s
Craig: scary. It’s really scary.
Todd: And this scene was full of tension because he hides under the bed and the door slowly opens like doors do with the knob turning and whatnot. Um, but then. It opens and there’s just nothing there. And he kind of looks back and he kind of looks forward and there’s nothing.
So he starts to creep out of the bed and you’re going, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Don’t do that. Don’t do that. Right. And as he’s doing that, he kind of get backs back in and then he comes back out a little bit, and then he turns up and realized there’s gotta be something on my bed. And it’s just great how that camera angles work in here to show us.
From his point of view, the bad, but not enough of the bed that we can see. There’s anything in there not, and I mean, he’s slowly lifts his head up to look at the bed. It’s Oh, so good. The way, the scene of stage.
Craig: Well, and it’s a fight. It divides your expectations because they’re building such tension to see.
What’s on the bed. You expect that that corpse to pop over the ledge at any moment, but when he finally can see up there, there’s nothing there. But then immediately he gets grabbed and pulled back underneath the bed as though the courts are under there within the whole time and he just didn’t know it.
Craig: And it pulls him not only under the bed, but it says though it’s pulling him into, I don’t know, another in through the wall or into, yeah. And meanwhile, his friends are racing to his house and like they’re in his house almost. And I’m thinking because. You know, I’ve seen a million of these movies that are targeted towards this age group.
I’m thinking, Oh, thank God they’re going to get there right at the last second, and they’re going to grab them and they’re going to pull them out and it’s going to be fine. No, no, no. It gets him, it gets him and he’s gone.
Todd: He’s gone for the rest of the movie. That is. It. I was surprised by that aspect of it too.
I really thought, I mean, big spoiler alert, but I really thought by the end, somehow some magic would bring all these people back and it wasn’t that way at all. These got these scratch marks that lead across the floor, like you dug his fingernails in as it was dragging him away, right to the baseboard of the wall.
I mean, they just look at this and they’re like. What happened. Uh, and now they’re freaked out. Shock and Stella and Ramon convene at a, the drive and again, where it’s just empty. It’s the middle of the day, and they’re talking about what they’re going to do. And they try to burn the book and they throw the book into the pot and they try to set it on fire.
And. You just tips over in the book spills out, they can’t burn it.
Craig: There’s also a monologue in there, I feel like from Stella first, Tommy disappeared then, not Augie. They had their stories in the book and it happens every night. Jesus hated it.
You don’t read the book. The book reads you, which I thought was a really kind of interesting concept. I wish it had played out a little bit more. I kind of wish that the stories that these people found themselves in were a little bit more personal. Now Ramones is, and so I think that’s kind of what the setup was of that.
It is an interesting idea that, you know, these people are kind of selected. Did for their stories for a reason. But like I said, it really kind of only plays out that way with Ramon and I guess Stella a little bit because she has so much in common with Sarah is kind of why hers is a little bit personal too, rather than they try to burn the book, it doesn’t burn, and when they pour it out of the burn barrel.
which was my favorite line of the movie, but then they do some research. They go to the library of course, and do some research on microfilm.
Todd: This is great. The classic research at the library scene.
Craig: Yeah. The classic research montage. We get to in this movie bonus. And they find old newspaper articles about the family and whatnot, and they find out that there was a black woman who lived on that, whatever you want to call it in their estate.
And she had a daughter, and I don’t remember if the woman had been hungry. They had just fired her or what, but there was some suggestion that this black servant had taught Sarah some black magic, and that leads to another plot point coming down. But they also find out that within one year of Sarah hanging herself, the entire family disappeared and not moved away, just disappeared.
Like they didn’t sell their estate, they didn’t sell the mill. They just disappeared. And then. The book starts writing another story and it’s the red spot. I’ll let you take this one because you remember it so vividly. I think most people do. This is one of the more famous ones.
Todd: Oh yeah, yeah. Cause it’s gross because unlike the rest of the book, really, this is something that could conceivably happen.
I mean. Maybe, well
Craig: be pretty unlikely,
Todd: but not unlikely, but it’s not outside of the realm of possibility stuff like this does actually happen. Anyway, so she’s going back to play and it’s great. It’s 1968 she’s got the school play. It’s bye bye birdie. Of course. I just. I just imagined my mom watching this going, Oh my God.
I was like, Oh no, we did buy. So this is so 1968 anyway, she’s in bye bye birdie, and she’s in the dressing room, and of course this big pimple is really embarrassing her, and she can’t really cover it up with makeup. It’s just much bigger now. And so she goes into the back of the secluded bathroom and is in there, and she’s poking and pushing at her cheek, and it’s clearly super sore now.
It’s just grown. Quite big on her cheek. It’s really red. It’s got this little yellow spot in there. And at the same time, the other kids are seeing that. There’s another story showing up called the red spot, and they see her name in there. And so they’re racing of course, um, to the school. And as she pokes at it, this little blink, it looks like a hair.
Pops out in the middle. Oh God, this is so gross. And then she goes up like she’s tries to start pulling the hair out and when she lets go of the hair, it moves like a little leg. Suddenly a spider comes. Breaking out of it. And tons of spiders come flowing out of her face and all over there, just as the kids come in to the bathroom.
So she’s screaming, she’s got spiders pouring out of her face, and they’re going all over the place. This story was, uh, I can’t remember if it was called the red spot, but it was definitely in the book. And it’s just this idea that a spider had laid an egg in this woman’s cheek that suddenly hatched and all these tiny.
Funders came out and they get there in time. And part of what we’re seeing too is this shadow that creeps over. It’s kind of like the ghost of the sister who’s coming in to sort of influence people. And Stella starts to notice this, and so she, she kind of sees this and she also sees. I think a figure.
Craig: I didn’t notice that.
I thought she just saw the shadowy stuff, but regardless, she puts it together. She says, you know that that was her. She was here. She’s pulling all the strings. You know, she’s puppeteering all of this
Todd: and they haul the sister out. They haul Ruth out on a stretcher. I mean, she’s okay. You know, just her face is messed up.
Craig: right, right. Later on, Stella says something like, well, we saved Ruth, and he’s like, you didn’t save anybody. She’s in the nut house for the rest of her life. So there are still implications that she’s not okay. But they did at least save her life, and then they do. So they found out about that black woman, and so they do some research into her and they know she had a daughter, so they.
Look for the daughter and they find her, and her name is Lulu. She’s played by Lorraine to sont who, um, has been in a lot of things. But, uh, she did one season of orange is the new black, and she was a bad bitch on that show.
Oh man. I, I get the impression that she’s kind of senile. She doesn’t really talk very much. Um. Stella picks up a music box and it plays this haunting theme that you hear throughout the score, who will be the next, but they tell Lulu that they have Sarah’s book and she asks to see it, and she repeats what Stella had said from the beginning.
Stories hurt, stories heal. You shouldn’t have taken the book. You made her angry. Stella says, well, did your mom or did you teach her black magic? And she’s like, no, it’s not magic. There’s no magic. It’s rage. It’s rage that gives her her strength and her power. When. Lulu kind of checks out her daughter or caretaker, whoever it is, comes in and choose the kids away.
But she just kind of casually mentions that Sarah did not hang herself in the home, that she died in a hospital. And so then more research.
So they go to the hospital and they try it again. Ask for the records and the nurse behind the desk is like, he, yeah, we don’t just give out records. Here’s a thing. You can apply and get them in six weeks or something. But a doctor says, Oh, I think we keep all those really old records in the red room. Um, and so they pretend to leave, but as they’re leaving.
Some a big group of doctors is coming out of the locked door to the interior of the hospital. So they sneak in and they go in and Chuck doesn’t want to go to the red room cause he’s scared of it, even though they find a sign that says the records and evaluation department, that’s where red comes from.
But he doesn’t want to go anyway. So they split up. Chuck goes off on his own and eventually starts getting chased around by staff. Stella and Ramon. Do find Sarah’s file, and they also find this old timey recording that’s like a wax roll. Then Ramon says, yeah, that Ramon says that they used before the days of vinyl records.
I’ll take his word for it.
Todd: No, it’s true.
Craig: I believe you, but it’s a recording of Sarah being interviewed by. Her brother, who I guess must have been a doctor at the hospital.
Todd: It’s a little convoluted. Yeah, but you’re right. Yeah. I guess the idea is that only a brother could kind of get away with what he was doing.
He’s delivering the electroshock treatments as well, while he’s doing this interview. So every now and then she just screams. It’s pretty creepy.
Craig: Yeah. Yeah. And he’s asking her basically to confess. So what the town has been saying about her, that she has been killing these children with her stories and she says, I didn’t do it.
Tell the truth, Sarah. I always in those children, no, and she says, I tried to save them, but nobody would listen to me. You wouldn’t let me out. It was the water, the mercury from the mill. You poisoned the water. So we finally get. The truth of the story. I mean, it comes out here and then it’s reiterated later, but then we find out that what has happened is that the reason that this girl was locked up was not necessarily because she was evil or bad or an embarrassment to the family, but because somehow she had found out that the reason that children were disappearing is because they were being poisoned.
By mercury from the family mill. And she had apparently told somebody as her brother continues to, uh, torture her on the recording, her voice changes and becomes more monstrous or demonic. She. Says, all right, I’ll tell you what you want to hear. And at that point, it becomes unclear if she’s talking to the brother or if she’s talking to Ramon and Stella because she starts telling a story and the story starts filling in in the book, and it’s Chuck’s story and it’s called the red room.
And God, this one, this one is so simple, like there’s really not much to the story, but I still find it. It was so frightening. I was just really impressed by how genuinely frightening the way that they presented these images. It was really scary. So his story basically is everything goes red in the hospital, which there could be a logical explanation for it because the staff does know that there are these intruders in there, so they could be on high alert or whatever, but everything goes red.
And Chuck is running through these hallways until eventually at the end of one of these hallways, he sees this monstrous, gross, grotesque blob woman don’t even know how to
Todd: describe a creepy smile on her face.
Craig: Yeah. And it’s not, it’s not like she’s just an obese woman. She’s, she’s monstrous. Like her, her head is too big and her face is too big and too flat, and she just has this unmoving grin on her face and every time he turns to try to run away from her and run down another hall, she’s there at the end of every hall.
And it’s not as though she’s just reappearing. It’s just that she is everywhere at the same time, like there’s many of them. Or, and he can’t escape. And the tension here is great too, because you know, he’ll find himself at like a four way intersection and she’ll be in three of the hallways. And so he only has the option to run down the one, but he’ll get a little bit down that way and she’ll appear down that way too.
And eventually. He just gets cornered at one of those intersections and she just like envelops him in a hug and then literally envelops him into her body and then he’s gone. This is two of the main characters, you know, like the good guys. Um, so far that, I mean, and it’s not like Ruth was a bad guy, but you know, she kind of had the popular girl thing going for her or whatever.
But these are two of your outcast characters who are supposed to be the heroes of the movie and they’re gone. It’s just a Stella and Ramon left.
Todd: You know, I think there’s some elements of this movie that are not fully explored that make it clear to me that they’re setting us up for sequel. We get so much.
Almost a little unnecessary backstory about some of these characters. And there’s kind of an interesting relationship between Stella and her dad. And Stella is clearly haunted by the fact that her, her mother left, and she doesn’t really understand or know why. And her dad’s a little distant, but they still have a very loving relationship, but he just doesn’t really know what to do with her.
Anyway, she comes home and has a moment with him. Um, but it’s also vote night. So everything’s kind of coming to a head as the election is being tallied, uh, for Nixon. And Ramon is cornered by the cops as well as Stella because at the, they’re, they’re caught, I think at the hospital. And they’re pulled in to the police station.
The police men reveals that Ramon is a draft Dodger. That’s why he’s kind of new in town. That’s why he’s being so cagey. And of course he’s a bit racist to him as well, and he decides he’s going to lock them up in the jail. So he puts them both in the jail. It’s only him and the dog in there. The lights start going out.
The guy opens up this book that he’s confiscated from them and sees that a story. Uh, is on there, called me Ty DOE, T Walker. They’re screaming like, what’s the story? What’s the story? Don’t do whatever, blah, blah, blah. In the meantime, he hears a noise. The dog is looking at the fireplace. It’s in this police station.
Okay. I guess it’s an older police station. We’ll go with that. It’s convenient for the story though. The dog just is. Standing there staring at this fireplace like there’s something there, and pretty soon there’s some movements and motion and a severed head, just like in the story, completely drops down this fireplace and rolls over and opens his eyes and has this huge grin on his face and goes, me,
Craig: Ty Doty Walker.
Todd: Which is nonsense. And does the dog just fall over or does the dog leave? What is the, what happens? It runs away. It runs away, right.
Craig: I just ran off
Todd: this story. I went,
Todd: Yeah, I know you’re really concerned about that. I went back, I read the story in the book and it’s a weird ass. The story about a guy who goes to a haunted house with his dog and this head falls, the dog starts replying like the dog suddenly starts talking and replying to this, this voice that’s coming and when the head finally falls down and says that the dog dies a fright,
Todd: but then soon after the head, a whole bunch of other limbs fall down to, and this is gross.
You know, I mean, these big disgusting gross limbs and you see the stumps and everything, uh, and the torso comes down too, and everything kind of crawls together and get sucked together into this. Not quite right. Giant man creature. It’s just like the limbs came together just a little off. In every which way it can kind of stand up, but it almost looks like its torso is on backwards and its head is halfway the wrong direction.
Uh, and he starts coming at the cop and the cop screams, and I think he gets the cop, doesn’t he.
Craig: He does. He breaks his neck snaps and it’s brutal. Yeah. And, and you, you see it, you hear it. I know. We keep saying, you know, how scary these things are. What sets it apart for me from other movies targeted at younger audiences.
Is that these effects look like they could have been lifted out of any serious horror movie made for adults. It’s not toned down at all. You know, this, this creepy guy. Could have, you know, come right out of the walking dead or any other number of movies targeted towards adults. It just, I don’t know. I don’t know exactly how to put my finger on it, but usually there’s just something that’s a little bit maybe more fantastical and a little bit less real looking.
Right. It’s targeted towards kids
Todd: nowadays. But we’ve also talked about how they never used to be that way. Right. And people, I mean, this is kind of a throwback to that really. I mean, this is fulfilling everything we said. Movies should be right now, not toned down so much for kids. So in that respect, it’s,
Craig: and maybe that’s why I’m so impressed because you’re right, we have said that many times, longing for the good old days when they didn’t tone things down for kids as much as they do today.
Um, so, you know, great, good job. Filmmakers. Thanks for listening to our suggestions, but the jangling.
Todd: Thanks Greg.
Craig: The Jangli man goes after Ramon. This is Ramon story, and the reason I said the whole, the, the book, uh, you don’t read the book. The book reads you. That applies to him because this jangly man is taunting him, calling him a coward.
And that’s really playing on his fears because he explains that he didn’t want to go to Vietnam because his brother. You know, just days before he got drafted, his brother had been sent home from Vietnam in pieces and uh, he was scared. And so this thing is praying on his fears and insecurities
Todd: and made of pieces.
Craig: Yeah, yeah. Right. This, the guy, you know, it’s really effective. The CGI looks really good. Again, it’s really dark, which plays in its favor, but, um, it looks really good. And the guy is. Played by a professional contortionists too, I guess was on America’s got talent. And so a lot of his movement is practical.
They just kinda gussy them up in the face and stuff with the CGI, he starts coming through the bars, but somehow Stella manages to get them out and they run out. And Ramon, tell Stella, you need to get to the house, the big scary house and take care of this with Sarah. You’ve got to get her to stop. Doing this.
Um, he says, aye, we need to split up because the stories don’t stop. This guy is not going to stop coming after me. And he’s right. So they do split up. She runs off towards the house, he steals a cop car, you think gets away. But then it turns out the jangly man is on the roof and you know, there’s a whole sequence where he’s driving around trying to.
Throw this monster off of the car. Um, eventually he gets it on the front, like on the bumper, and he smashes it into a truck. And it falls apart, which I thought meant it was dead, but apparently it just fell apart so that it could get out of there and reassemble and it keeps coming after him. And so then he heads towards the house too.
Meanwhile, Sarah is there and her story has begun and her story is the haunted house, and basically what her story is, is she. Is experiencing what Sarah went through in that house, and even though it’s not supernatural, it’s just as terrifying as the rest of the stories. It’s horrible. I mean, basically what it comes down to is that she was just terribly abused by her family, especially once she learned their secret and she was a.
Threats and them, you know, they kept her locked up, they chased her, they beat her. And Stella is kind of reliving all of this until she, because I guess the apparitions or whatever think that I’m Stella is Sarah. And so they capture her and throw her in the basement and lock her in the basement. And that’s where, you know.
The resolution finally comes. I thought it was fairly satisfying.
Todd: It was. There’s some meat touches to to this whole sequence because both Sarah and Ramona are in the house, but it’s like they’re an alternate dimensions or alternate timeline. Whereas, you know, to Sarah, obviously the whole family’s there and everything’s fresh and new, and to Ramon, he’s still being chased.
By this jangly man, and they’re in a lot of the same locations, sometimes standing in exactly the same spot, and he’ll get like a chill, like Sarah, this is like Sarah’s ghost from the past. Or, um, uh, Stella’s ghost from the past coming. And he even gets under a table and finds a pair of glasses that are broken that are clearly.
Stella’s, but they look like they’d been there forever. And then shortly after that we see a sequence where Stella’s under that table and this family drags her out and the glasses get left behind and stepped on. I mean, those are just really nice little implications there, you know, of time travel and kind of the supernatural thing.
But yeah, you’re right. So she gets thrown in there and he’s still being pursued by the man, and he basically just yells at her, tell her the truth. Stella is in Sarah’s room, and Sarah appears. She materializes in front of her and she stands up and she starts slowly walking towards her and she looks pretty creepy and whatnot.
But Sarah is basically telling her, look, I can tell the truth about you. I can write your story. You know, the way it should be written, but this rage has to stop. You know, it’s basically, it’s basically her message.
Craig: What’s your family did to you. But they said that’s on them. What do you do.
Todd: That apparently gets to Sarah. She starts crying a little bit. Tears are showing from her eyes. She didn’t say anything, but she hands a pen over to her and tells her to use your blood. And so Sarah. I’m sorry. Stella pokes herself with this pen to get her blood on it and she starts writing Sarah’s true story, and that is enough, I think, to make the monster go away.
I think Sarah Bass basically just calls off the dogs and she disappears again. At that point I thought, okay, that means the whole spell is broken. All the kids are going to come out of the woodwork and everybody’s going to join up and, and you know, it was all just a terrible nightmare. That’s over a and, and that didn’t happen.
And I was pretty surprised at that part. I really expected this. Yeah. The spell is broken now. Everybody comes back and that did not happen at all. Ruth comes back though, right?
Craig: Yeah. Basically we go back to that monologue from the beginning about stories, hurt, stories heal. If you tell them long, tell them enough times they become real or something like that.
Um. And so she does. She writes Sarah story, I think it gets published in her school newspaper or something. She wins some sort of award for it or something. Ramon goes off to war and Stella in her closing monologue vows, she says, Chuck and Augie are still gone, but I know that I can get them back. I know the book has the power to bring them back and we’re going to bring them back and then you see she’s in a car.
I think. With her dad, I don’t remember. But you see that Ruth is also in the back too, and her face is kind of messed up, but she smiles. So I think the indication is that she’s better. Um, and that’s where it ends. And I think you’re right. I think they probably were setting it up for a potential sequel.
And so, you know, maybe Chuck and Augie will live on one day, but not in this movie.
Todd: It says something in part as they drive away. Um, but she’s got the book in her lap and you’ll hear her monologue and she says something like, uh, I know that, uh, that I can get my friends back. And the secret is in this book, I just need to find it.
And so, right. I mean, that’s pretty clearly SQL bait. And apparently SQL is, was announced that it would be, was in development, but we haven’t really heard anything clear about it yet. And probably any movement on that would have happened the beginning of this year. And. As you, we know a lot of things that were supposed to happen beginning of this year, put on hold.
So yeah, we’ll see. We’ll see if it happens, but it’s set up for one. I liked the movie. I didn’t, it wasn’t the best thing I’d ever seen. Actually, I felt a lot about this movie the same way I felt for the Guillermo Del Toro. Re directed movie that we were just talking about about, uh, don’t be afraid of the dark or whatever.
I thought it was fine. A little more kiddish. It followed the structure and general theme of a kid’s movie, although it did have that edge, like we talked about, and generally was scary but not so scary that I was. Terribly frightened, but it did subvert my expectations by not everything just being okay at the end.
So it was a nice movie. I, you know, especially good for kids, maybe for families, little older kids. I don’t know if I’ll watch it again. I liked the tying in thematically and visually with the books. I thought that was nice. And like I said earlier, I really liked the fact that it didn’t follow that standard anthology kind of thing, but actually had more of an more of a reason for the stories and a source for the stories.
Yeah. So, yeah, it’ll be interesting to see if they do have a sequel where it goes, because presumably Sarah’s pacified, so I don’t know what she’s going to end up doing with that book or how more stories are going to come out of it. But, uh,
Craig: yeah. We’ll see. Yeah. I, I basically feel the same way. It’s not like my favorite movie ever, but I thought overall it was, it was really well done.
Yeah. Um, the, the, the young actors were good, uh, and, and endearing, and I thought that visually it was really. Cool to look at. I mean, there, there were a lot of really pretty like outdoor shots and in broad daylight. Um, and then, you know, in the, it was never so dark that I couldn’t see what was going on, but it was dark enough to kind of make the CGI not look so cartoonish.
I thought the effects were good. I thought, uh, like you said, it’s not like I was cowering under my blanket or anything, but I was just kinda surprised. Like, wow, yeah, this is. Pretty legit, scary stuff. So I think overall it was a success. Uh, and I would recommend it, you know, if you were a parent, you would have to make that judgment call on your own.
Cause it is pretty dark, uh, in places I don’t
Todd: hold us responsible for this. Right?
Craig: Um, but you know, if your kid’s into this kind of thing and they understand that it’s just make believe and stuff, I do think it would be a fun family movie if that’s what your kids into. But I would recommend that even just to any horror fan.
Uh, I think it’s a good movie. Not, again, not my favorite, but a good solid movie worth, worth at least one viewing.
Todd: Well, thank you so much, Frank and Karthik or recommended to us. It was a joy to watch and be able to talk about if you have any requests you can find us online. Like I said, write us a message and also go to our YouTube channel, see if you can get some more people to subscribe to that so we can do some more fun things with that as well.
Please share this podcast with some friends. We are recording a few more episodes than normal each week. The goal is for me to just be able to put out maybe an extra episode every once or twice just to make up for those weeks where we’ve been a little late and we know that a lot of you are maybe at home right now.
Looking for entertainment. So we want to be able to fill that void for you in our very small way that we can. So until next time, I’m Todd
Craig: and I’m Craig
Todd: with two guys and a chainsaw.
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