Oscar-winning film-maker Guillermo del Toro co-wrote and produced this 60s-set teen horror that has proved to be something of a sleeper hit.

The film is adapted from a trilogy of young adult-targeted anthology horror books, the first of which was published in 1981. Although they had a much larger cultural presence in the States than in New Zealand, many of the stories were riffs on familiar urban myths shared on many a Kiwi playground.

Instead of making an anthology film comprised of separate shorts, Del Toro and his collaborators have strung together several of the Scary Stories into a single, linear tale of a group of teenagers in 1968 who discover their small town has a dark history, and they are going to suffer for it.

That history concerns a convoluted mythology involving a cursed book, a common motif in the work of Del Toro often emphasises the power of narrative. As the film repeatedly states: "Stories heal. Stories hurt."


The stories that made it to the big screen range from the overtly horrific - an abused scarecrow stalks a bully in a cornfield - to the ickier side of things: a germ-phobic finds a toe in his soup. Indeed, there is a surfeit of gross-out moments here, no surprise considering Del Toro's involvement.

The 1968 setting lends some mild political heft to the proceedings – one of the main characters is a draft-dodger - but the film works best when it's simply trying to freak you out.

The film is rated R16 here, limiting access to its intended audience (it's PG-13 in America). The local rating seems a tad over-cautious; although there are some genuinely creepy moments, most teenagers should be able to handle it just fine.


Zoe Colletti, Michael Garza, Lorraine Toussaint


Andre Ovredal

Running Time:


111 minutes


R16 (Violence & horror)


A mostly fun, often icky slice of old campire tale-infused fantasy horror.