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  • Writer's pictureS.J.

Quick Reviews: 'Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark', 'Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw'

Kids reading a book, Jason Statham and Dwayne Johnson looking mad
Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark (L), Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (R)


Anytime you restrict horror or thriller movies from doing something, you’re automatically setting yourself a higher hurdle to get over. In the genre, one of the hardest things to overcome in pre-production is if the movie is supposed to be PG-13 and you need to make that still exciting to watch. Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark as directed by André Øvredal set out to do that as many films have suffered from it lately like previously reviewed The Turning and Fantasy Island, good thing is that it keeps the rhythm flowing and scares pretty surprisingly nasty. One thing to point out here at the start is that I’d never heard about the books this is based on, so no comment on its faithfulness.

What I want to highlight about how I viewed the film is the fact that after watching it, there were reviews that mentioned a bunch of R-rated films which is a disservice. I didn’t think to do that, instead I focused on how a younger crowd could perceive it. This checks a lot of boxes that I like to see PG horror check. There are some grimy practical effects executed by the make-up crew which is a nice reminder of classic horror films. The creatures look similar to the creepy original drawings and they are used creatively in the scenes, most memorable being the red room sequence. That sequence as well as the other ones use lighting sources well, not just having lights flicker and making the screen all black.

''Scary Stories'' also moves from scene to scene in a rhythmic fashion, there isn’t really anything that drags and the build-ups to scares aren’t always just loud noises but here there is growing tension first created. Don’t get me wrong, it does at points use the generic jump-scare essentials but it isn’t overly done. The falling back to the expected is overall the small problem the movie has as it definitely doesn’t reinvent anything. That is though often a case when adapting something beloved so it’s hard to hold it against the film. The kid characters—played by Zoe Colletti (as Stella), Michael Garza (Ramón), Gabriel Rush (Auggie) and Austin Zajur (Chuck)—aren’t widely given enough depth to make the story exceptional but there is one well thought-out revelation about Ramón which fits the time period.

Smileys: Makeup, pacing, lighting

Frowneys: Minor issues with originality

Very good introduction to horror movies for younger people and doesn’t bore the older crowd unless you’re comparing it to raunchier stuff.


Kids reading an old book


Bonkers, more bonkers. Fast & Furious have gone even more bonkers with the latest instalment, Hobbs & Shaw from director David Leitch. Ever since the fifth film of the franchise which is often considered to be the best, the franchise has been upping the ante in a way which sometimes translates to absolute ridiculousness on the big screen. This time the ridiculousness comes from spinoff characters played by Dwayne Johnson (as Hobbs) and Jason Statham (Shaw) who face off against the franchise’s first supervillain (yes that’s right, this is straight up comic book-y), Brixton (Idris Elba). It’s a hot mess in that it’s not quite well done but it’s never not boring.

What Hobbs & Shaw manages to, let’s say, recapture about these kinds of action movies is the overall feeling and tone. There’s enough lighthearted fun to be had here with Johnson and Statham bickering in a perfectly PG-13 way so it doesn’t become too hostile or serious. That is something F7 and F8 didn’t handle along with properly incorporating film’s female characters and actors. Vanessa Kirby as Hattie Shaw is just as necessary for the story and scenes as the main duo which makes especially the dialogue feel less generic. Kirby stands out as far as the technical acting goes but the film also gets a boost from several supporting members (some uncredited so avoiding spoilers here).

Now, based on getting the tone right you might think the implication is that it’s a good movie. Well, you could call it more passable than anything else. As I alluded earlier a little bit, the supervillain aspect is laughable in how the story revolves around it. It’s completely not playing by the rules that the franchise has set and it brings down the stakes for the action sequences. In the Chernobyl part, it’s tied with some wonky blue screen VFX work and in the Samoa part, with some awful, general VFX. Similarly during the Samoa portion, there is a distracting scene that starts at night time when it’s dark but after a cut there is light and a couple cuts after there’s sunshine blaring. That’s just poor planning and editing.

Smileys: Tone, Vanessa Kirby, casting

Frowneys: Story, editing

Could’ve been one of the better action movies of late if there had been more care when working with the script and the edit.


Jason Statham and Dwayne Johnson confronted by guys with guns
Universal Pictures

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