Where i Watched It: Netflix
Audio Description provided By: Zoo Digital
Written By: Julie Winter
Narrated By: Heather Foster
This book, as my generation can tell you, was fucking terrifying. The book. The movie is not. I still remember some of the stories today, and I haven’t read the damn thing in probably 30 years. The girl with the ribbon around her neck, the thing on top of the dresser and the sound it made, there were some stories in here that were not meant for elementary school kids, yet that’s exactly who was reading it. At the same time, i was reading Goosebumps and those were nothing compared to this.
So, when I heard there was a film adaptation, i wet myself. Then, when I heard it was PG-13 despite Guillermo Del Toro as producer, I just said no. After watching the film, I’m still wondering… how did this get a PG-13 rating? At bare minimum the scene with the various body parts and decapitated head should have put this in R territory. It’s not like it’s played for laughs. It’s played to scare the crap out of you.
But, unfortunately, the movie doesn’t hold up. It’s one of those films where kids go somewhere they shouldn’t, a curse befalls them, and they get targeted one by one. Except, oddly enough, the haunted book doesn’t just target the kids who went in the house. It goes after other people. Arguably, at first, the book is helpful, because it takes out a character you don’t like. But later on, once the rules are said to be that the story is writing itself about a subject as it progresses, it doesn’t hold to that rule either. A character dies in a segment supposedly where someone else was the target.
I wanted to find this as scary as the book, but everything is telegraphed to you in advance. You know where the scare is coming, and you know the inevitability of this Final Destination style thing where they can’t seemingly escape their fate once chosen. The narration is mostly Ok, and I know it’s trying to preserve a mood. So there are long moments of silence so not to ruin a jump scare, even if the jump scare is blatantly obvious. When it can describe, sometimes the narration hits a home run. There was a scene revolving around a person transforming into something that was well described. But then, later, there’s this woman who is just pale, and she just kind of absorbs a character. I wasn’t sure what about that woman made her scary, or how someone would go about absorbing in that scene. It wasn’t clear enough.
That being said, the ultimate sin here is that it just wasn’t scary. And for a film adapted from a book that still gives me chills as an adult, I’m disappointed. Throw Guillermo’s name on this, and there’s really no excuse. Do better.. Thankfully, there hasn’t been a sequel. Let’s keep it that way.
Final Grade: D+