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Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark | 2019 | PG-13 | – 2.6.5

content-ratingsWhy is “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” rated PG-13? The MPAA rating has been assigned for “terror/violence, disturbing images, thematic elements, language including racial epithets, and brief sexual references.” The Kids-In-Mind.com evaluation includes a suggestive comment made by a teen and some hugging; several scenes of murder or disappearance with murder implied, with blood on the victims and vomited by one victim, scenes of zombies, severed limbs and heads, many spiders swarming out of a teen girl’s face and covering her, scenes of torture by confinement and shock treatments and bullying, and discussions of the Vietnam war; and one probable F-word and other strong language. Read our parents’ guide below for details on sexual content, violence & strong language.”


Since turbulent 1968, a Pennsylvania town has trembled at the dark mysteries of an old family mansion since a teen girl turned her experiences of torture into a book of scary stories. The stories become all too real for teenagers (Zoe Margaret Colletti, Michael Garza, Gabriel Rush and Austin Abrams) who discover her tales and they must fight for their lives. Also with Dean Norris, Gil Bellows, Lorraine Toussaint, Austin Zajur, Natalie Ganzhorn and Kathleen Pollard. Directed by André Øvredal. [Running Time: 1:47]

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark SEX/NUDITY 2

 – A teen boy and a teen girl hold hands briefly and later hug twice. A teen boy tells his girlfriend he wants to have her for dessert (sex is implied but it doesn’t happen).
 A teen boy has a fountain pen featuring the rather fuzzy image of a woman wearing underwear and a garter belt. A few young women wear short skirts that reveal upper thighs.


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Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark VIOLENCE/GORE 6

 – A scarecrow comes down from its post at night, cracks its joints and follows a teen boy, who is drunk, (please see the Substance Use category for more details) and falls over a pitchfork; the teen gets back up and the scarecrow stabs the boy in the torso with the pitchfork (we see blood flow from the wound), the teen staggers, vomits blood, screams, and we see straw shoot out of the boy’s mouth, ears, face and body, and he falls as he vomits straw into the camera (the police find the scarecrow the next morning on its post, dressed in the boy’s clothing).
 A teen boy heats a pot of stew and begins eating until he finds a large hairy toe in his mouth, vomits red material onto the floor, and knocks the pot over to show a human eye in the stew; a skull-head zombie in rags lumbers down a hallway demanding its missing toe, the boy locks himself into his room but the door opens itself and the boy screams when he sees the creature in his bed with sharp teeth; the creature drags the boy under the bed and along wooden floors, leaving fingernail scratches (the boy is never seen again).
 A teen girl steals a book from a haunted house, returns it, but it appears in her room; she takes it back at night and shouts for the ghost of the dead teen girl who wrote it and the house changes into its 19th century version and the first girl experiences the author’s torture: The girl is grabbed and dragged by the hair by two men, screaming, to a basement, and locked in the dark for the rest of her lifetime; in real time, the first girl berates a pale ghost of a dead girl, the ghost hands her a fountain pen, with which she pricks her finger and writes in blood in the book, telling about the unfair torture and the ghost’s family business poisoning the town’s water (the ghost then disappears).
 Alarms in an asylum go off and a teen boy is in a corridor bathed in red light as he is followed by a floating, doughy humanoid figure with long straggly hair and a bloated, peeling, smiling face; the boy cannot get away no matter where he runs and the creature hugs him, absorbs him, and rubs its stomach.
 A large dog at a jail growls at the entrance door as the lights go out and a teen girl in a cell screams, a severed head is thrown through the door to the floor, opens an eye, and spews nonsense as other body parts are thrown through the door and smack the floor; a sheriff shoots the head several times, but it laughs (with two sets of teeth side by side) and kills the sheriff (no blood is seen) and the body parts come together as bones crack (the body has no genitalia and is covered in streaks of gore), it walks on all fours with its stomach upwards, shouting, “Me Toe Dough-ty Walker,” tries to grab a teen boy, and lopes on all fours across lawns outside; the teen boy escapes and drives a cruiser, as the creature follows and jumps on the cracking windshield, it slams feet and arms against the roof and cracks all the glass, and the boy drives fast and slams into a parked truck; the creature roars and groans, falls apart and reassembles itself on the street, it chases the boy to a dark haunted house and tries to attack him several times by biting, but fails and the boy falls down steps, hurts his leg (no blood is seen) and the creature finally vanishes.
 We hear a recording of a teen girl screaming, tortured with shock treatments by her brother in an asylum for saying the family paper-mill business was poisoning the town’s water supply. We hear that a teen girl hanged herself after false accusations that she killed children.
 A teen girl finds a large spider bite on her cheek and the spot grows extremely large fast and turns yellow until a spider leg pushes out and many spiders burst out as she screams and hundreds of spiders swarm over her; a teen boy douses her with water and brushes them away as she screams and he takes her out to an emergency vehicle to go to the hospital (she recovers).
 On Halloween, a teen girl and three teen boys break into an abandoned house’s dark, cobwebbed basement and find a book of horror stories with blank pages that write in blood with an unseen hand about horrors concerning the teens who found the book; a teen boy pushes his girlfriend into the basement and locks all the kids inside and one girl screams at cobwebs and a misty hand unlocks the door. A boy in a haunted house sees a bright red room with an elderly woman with milky eyes in it; he runs and shouts in fear.
 A teen boy breaks the windshield of another young man’s car and writes “Go Back” [to Mexico] on the hood in what could be feces. Teenagers in a drive-in theater watch some stumbling zombies on-screen and three male teen bullies rap on the car windows with ball bats and tell the occupants to get out until adults yell at the bullies, who leave. Three teens throw empty beer bottles at a scarecrow, curse, and slam it with a baseball bat (the scarecrow has old clothing and a craggy, flesh-like face).
 A teen boy tells friends to scoop feces out of toilets for a Halloween prank; we see one teen with the outline of fecal matter in a small fishnet and later he stands with a large bag of candy as another teen drives by and grabs it; another teen in the car says it smells bad and the boy on the sidewalk lights a small bag that he says contains feces and tosses the bag at the car, which drives off the road and dents the front end.
 A teen girl has horror film posters on her bedroom walls, including a hypnotist, zombies, and a crowd of people running. Three teenagers try to burn a magic book, but it won’t burn. In two scenes, a small group of teenagers argue loudly for several seconds. A teen girl cries because her mother left the family many years ago. A teen girl cries when two friends vanish. An elderly woman has hand tremors and her music box plays “The Death March.” A teen boy says his brother was shipped home from Vietnam in pieces. President Nixon says on TV that he does not want to bomb anyone unnecessarily.


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Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark LANGUAGE 5

 – An unclear probable F-word, 10 scatological terms, 2 anatomical terms, 4 mild obscenities, name-calling (coward, idiot, dumb, brat, perv, ugly, lovebirds, draft dodger, Tricky Dicky, Rodriguez [derogatory]), exclamations (I swear, shut-up), 1 religious profanity (GD), 3 religious exclamations (Oh My God). | profanity glossary |


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Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark SUBSTANCE USE

 – A teen boy staggers out of his car at night at home and his mother shouts at him for drinking again (we see no alcohol), and three teen boys throw empty beer bottles against a scarecrow.


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Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark DISCUSSION TOPICS

 – Urban legends, witchcraft, corporate greed, poisoning water supplies, cover-ups, false accusations, torture, murder, child abuse, violence, danger to teens and college-age people, the Nixon Administration, the Vietnam Conflict, avoiding the draft, xenophobia, racism.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark MESSAGE

 – Both good and bad stories can come to life, but we can choose our own stories.

CAVEATS

Be aware that while we do our best to avoid spoilers it is impossible to disguise all details and some may reveal crucial plot elements.

We've gone through several editorial changes since we started covering films in 1992 and older reviews are not as complete & accurate as recent ones; we plan to revisit and correct older reviews as resources and time permits.

Our ratings and reviews are based on the theatrically-released versions of films; on video there are often Unrated, Special, Director's Cut or Extended versions, (usually accurately labelled but sometimes mislabeled) released that contain additional content, which we did not review.



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