Guillermo del Toro’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is one of the most well-received PG-13 horror movies in recent memory. The quasi-anthology horror film set in Mill Valley, Pennsylvania on Halloween night in 1968 tells of a trio of adolescent friends who, upon being tormented by the town bully, become entangled in a web of wicked horror scenarios. The Pale Lady, The Jangly Man, Harold the Scarecrow, and a Nine-Toed Zombie all await the kids, each of whom demonstrates different levels of intelligence.
Directed by Andre Ovredal, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark was released in U.S. theaters on August 9, 2019. In addition to generally favorable reviews, the film grossed more than $104 million on an estimated budget of $25 million.
8 Tommy Milner
Movie bullies are often the most dimwitted of the lot, and in the case of Tommy Milner (Austin Abrams) in Scary Stories, he does nothing to dispel the trend. In fact, without the actions of Tommy at the beginning of the film, there would be no scary stories for the kids to endure in reality.
The film begins with young friends Stella (Zoe Margaret Colletti), Auggie (Gabriel Rush), and Chuck (Austin Zajur) pranking Tommy the bully for his past transgressions. Tommy unwisely retaliates and chases the kids into an old haunted house before becoming the first victim in the film.
7 Chuck Steinberg
With a vibe redolent of Scooby Doo‘s Shaggy, Chuck Steinberg is a stock-standard dazed and confused sidekick who relies on the intelligence of his peers to get by.
Although Chuck shows enough intelligence to survive many of the horrific scenarios the kids find themselves in during Halloween night, he shows little brain-power in his attempt to escape the Pale Lady at the hospital. The slow, lumbering ghoul manages to trick Chuck before he’s ultimately subsumed by it.
6 Auggie Hilderbrandt
Although Auggie Hilderbrandt (Gabriel Rush) seems to be an intelligent young man, appearances can be deceiving. So can a nine-toed zombie monster who somehow outwits the kid before making his young body disappear.
In the second vignette entitled “The Big Toe,” the kids discover that Auggie is named as the main character in the story written by Sarah Bellows years prior. When Stella and Chuck admonish Auggie that the zombified ghoul is out to capture him, Auggie ignorantly eats from a pot of stew that contains the zombie’s missing toe. The unwise decision makes him instantly vanish.
5 Chief Turner
Although Officer Turner (Gil Bellows) was shrewd enough to make Police Chief, his unintelligent actions failed to deliver Mill Valley from evil. His inaction allowed Harold the Scarecrow and the Nine-Toed Zombie to run roughshod in his small town.
Moreover, given the abject horror in town, Chief Turner feels the need to arrest Stella and Ramon for petty trespassing on Sarah’s property. When Turner’s dog begins acting erratically in the hospital a bit later, Ramon is smart enough to take it as a portentous sign. Turner isn’t intelligent enough to do so and is subsequently killed by the Jangly Man moments later.
4 Ruth Steinberg
Despite her limited screen time, Auggie’s sister Ruth (Natalie Ganzhorn) is one of the most intelligent characters in the film. The number one reason why is that she is smart enough to avoid the monstrous mayhem that the others do. Well, except for that thing with the spiders.
Ruth is first introduced when Stella, Auggie, and Chuck are locked in Sarah Bellows’ abandoned house by Tommy. Once Stella retrieves Sarah’s book and evades with Chuck and Auggie, Ruth is smart enough to stay out of harm’s way. Ruth physically survives her stay in a mental institution, something that cannot be said of Chuck, Auggie, and Tommy.
3 Ramon Morales
While Chief Turner tries to impugn Stella’s new friend Ramon Morales (Michael Garza) for dodging the Vietnam War draft, the fact remains he was smart enough to avoid the horrors of war. As mentioned above, Ramon was also intelligent enough to recognize Turner’s portentous pooch as a warning of the Jangly Man’s arrival.
Moreover, Ramon’s inherent wisdom allows him to be the only survivor in the film next to Stella. He manages to sidestep all of the deadly trappings of each horrific vignette and help Stella return home safely.
2 Sarah Bellows
Although her fate ended in a tragic suicide, the entire plot of the film springboards from the collection of horror stories written by Sarah Bellows. Without her evil intelligence to write stories that could manifest in reality, there would be no movie to watch.
Sarah connivingly concocts the various vignettes to become a horrifying Halloween-night reality. When confronted at the end by Stella, Sarah’s spirit is smart enough to allow Sarah to expose her family’s horrific past in exchange for no more killing. Sarah grants Stella survival knowing that her personal truth will be told.
1 Stella Nicholls
Far and away the most intelligent, capable, and most badass character in the movie is Stella Nichols (Zoe Colletti). She is a strong-willed, tough-minded, and an independent young woman who literally outwits every major monster Sarah Bellows throws at her in the film.
Aside from the dumb idea to take Sarah’s book in the first place, Stella makes sharp decisions at every turn. Her smartest decision is to return to the accursed Bellows abode, a place she knows is the only way to defeat Sarah’s abject evil. Stella not only survives the whole ordeal as the protagonist final girl, but she also vows to rescue a still-missing Chuck, Auggie, and Tommy in a potential sequel to come.
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