Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark Ultra HD Blu-ray Review

Based on the book series by Alvin Schwartz, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark begins on Halloween in 1968, and follows reclusive Stella and her two friends who meet a mysterious drifter, Ramón, and subsequently uncover a sinister notebook of stories with a dark secret. Check out Ralph Potts’ Ultra HD Blu-ray review from Lionsgate Home Entertainment.

The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )

Film:

Extras:

Audio/UHD Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )

92

Details:

Studio and Year: Lionsgate – 2019
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Feature running time: 108 minutes
Genre: Horror

Disc Format: BD-100
Encoding: HEVC: Dolby Vision
Video Aspect: 2.40:1
Resolution: 2160p/24

Audio Format(s): English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish
Starring: Zoe Colletti, Michael Garza, Austin Abrams, Dean Norris, Gil Bellows, Lorraine Toussaint
Directed by: Andre Ovredal
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Written by: Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman
Region Code: A

Release Date: November 5, 2019

“Based on the Iconic Book Series”

Synopsis:

“Based on the book series by Alvin Schwartz, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark begins on Halloween in 1968, and follows reclusive Stella and her two friends who meet a mysterious drifter, Ramón, and subsequently uncover a sinister notebook of stories with a dark secret.” – Lionsgate Home Entertainment.

My Take:

It’s 1968 in America. Change is blowing in the wind…but seemingly far removed from the unrest in the cities is the small town of Mill Valley, where for generations the shadow of the Bellows family has loomed large. It is in their mansion on the edge of town that Sarah, a young girl with horrible secrets, turned her tortured life into a series of scary stories, written in a book that has transcended time. For a group of teenagers who discover Sarah’s terrifying home, the stories become all too real.

I haven’t read he book series by Alvin Schwartz, nor had I heard of it prior to sitting down with Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark but, as a genre fan I had to give it a go, despite the tepid reaction my son had to it when he saw it in the theater. From a conceptual standpoint I really liked this film. The idea that a tortured soul could reach out from the beyond to wreak havoc on the living by bringing to life that which frightened you most via writing it in book/diary, sounds hokey but, it worked pretty well here.

Sort of reminiscent of producer Guillermo Del Toro’s penchant for creating monsters to assist in telling his tales, there are a set of fairly well-designed creepers that serve as the foundation for what frightens the film’s characters. I liked that too. What I found lacking in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark are characters that you care about, especially given how the events unfold. I also found the elements of horror to be too generic to prove hair raising. Lastly, I didn’t find the acting, across the board, to be all that convincing.

The ending, which wasn’t so hot, leaves things wide open for a continuance of the story, so we’ll have to see where that goes. As for this film, I would have to side with my son in that my reaction to it is on the lukewarm side. I will say that if aimed at younger/unseasoned genre audiences, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark would more than likely gain more traction.

Replay Value:

Parental Guide:

The rating is for terror/violence, disturbing images, thematic elements, language including racial epithets and, brief sexual references.

AUDIO/VIDEO – By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

UHD Presentation(HDR-10): 92
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • HDR: Dark Highlights: 
  • HDR: Bright Highlights: 
  • HDR: Expanded Color: 
  • Resolution: 
  • Visual Impact: 

UHD Presentation (Dolby Vision): 92
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • HDR: Dark Highlights: 
  • HDR: Bright Highlights: 
  • HDR: Expanded Color: 
  • Resolution: 
  • Visual Impact: 

Audio: 92
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Dynamics: 
  • Low frequency effects: 
  • Surround Sound presentation: 
  • Clarity/Detail: 
  • Dialog Reproduction: 
  • DSU/DTS Neural:X Rating * (non-rated element): NA

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from Lionsgate Home Entertainment featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video and lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 channel sound.

For its presentation on Ultra HD Blu-ray, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark was rendered from 2.8K/3.4K sources. I wasn’t able to determine whether it was finished on a 2K or 4K Digital Intermediate.

From a cinematic perspective this is a genre film that was shot with a specific visual aesthetic in mind, and that comes through in the Ultra HD presentation. I wouldn’t describe this film as overtly colorful, although, there are elements, such as the wide-angle shots of Mill Valley, and its farm lands, where the palate of autumn-based hues, sepia tones and variants of blue/red/green benefited from UHD’s wider color gamut, appearing vividly pleasing and lifelike. Resolution gets a noticeable boost as well. Close-ups and mid-level shots offer improved refinement and deeper definition that makes textures easier to delineate.

There is intermittent use of visual elements that utilize high dynamic range. There were instances where bright elements looked appreciably vibrant, such as the headlights on the police cruiser cutting through the dark as Ramon attempts to escape his living nightmare. The film contains a host of sun splashed, daytime segments, which appeared more vibrant and tonally gradational compared to the Blu-ray. The film’s plethora of defining low level sequences had excellent depth of field and emboldened contrast.

Based upon the excellent quality of the original source the difference between viewing Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark in high definition and Ultra HD isn’t night and day, but there is no question that its UHD presentation benefitted from the increase in resolution, WCG and, high dynamic range treatment.

Dolby Vision vs HDR-10:

I utilize the TCL 55P607 UHD Dolby Vision HDR flat panel in my review system to enable me to compare the visual quality of titles that contained the Dolby Vision metadata versus its HDR-10 counterpart on the same disc. All titles are first watched via my JVC front projector. I then select specific scenes which are watched on the TCL, first via HDR-10 then via Dolby Vision. The TCL isn’t among the top tier flat panels with DV, however it came recommended by AVS Forum Senior Editor Mark Henninger, and calibrates/performs extremely well for a set at its price point.

* The cumulative A/V score will still be based upon the HDR-10 rating, with the DV rating serving as informational only for now.*

Comparing the DV and HDR10 presentations, I found the HDR rendering to essentially be identical. As I alluded to earlier, this film’s elements aren’t consistently lent to bright color and vibrant highlights. When I switched back and forth between the DV and HDR10 renderings, any minute differences were negligible and not enough to warrant a rating difference.

Dolby TrueHD Multi-Channel Sound:

The lossless soundtrack doesn’t consistently engage the entire surround platform however reproduces the source elements with aplomb. Dialog has definitive presence with refined vocal character and excellent room penetration. Dynamic range is good which lends subtle distinction to low level sounds and gravity to broader ones. There are a few sequences that engage the entire system to briefly produce entertaining and room filling sound. This comes in the form of low frequency effects, atmospheric ambience/directional sounds and musical enhancement.

The decision not to offer a Dolby Atmos immersive mix on this home video presentation is a curious one as given its thematic tone and well recorded elements it would easily have benefited from it.

For those not familiar with the details regarding Ultra HD Blu-ray you can refer to my article that includes some pertinent data on the subject. Here is the link:

Ultra HD Blu-ray Has Come to AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Blu-ray Video:

Video: 94
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Resolution/Clarity: 
  • Black Level/Shadow Detail: 
  • Color Reproduction: 
  • Fleshtones:
  • Compression: 

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark comes to Blu-ray Disc from Lionssgate Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video.

This isn’t a particularly bright film but, it manages to strike a good balance between the use of dark and light elements. Certain scenes are bathed in monochromatic/sepia/blue while others appear to use natural lighting and splashes of color. This seems to mate well thematically, and I found the visual contrast interesting. In most regards both light and dark sequences have above average depth with appreciable shadow delineation. Blacks are gradational with noteworthy depth. Dynamic range is notable as brighter elements tend to have punchy highlights with visible detail. Resolution occasionally fluctuates but in general, detail is clearly resolvable with discerning visual perspective that results in pleasing, multi-dimensional high definition video quality.

Bonus Features:

  • Disc 1: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark Ultra HD Blu-ray
  • Disc 2: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark Blu-ray
    • “The Bellows Construct” Featurette
    • “Creature from the Shadows” Featurette
    • “Mood Reels” Featurette
    • “Behind-the-Scenes Trailers: Set Visits” Featurette
    • “Dark Tales” Featurette
    • “Retro Horror” Featurette
  • Digital Copy

Final Thoughts:

Based on the book series by Alvin Schwatrz Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is a conceptually strong genre entry that would have benefitted from a stronger script and cast but, it stays afloat due to the total sum of its parts. It comes to Blu-ray in this Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack from Lionsgate Home Entertainment featuring excellent overall image quality, solid lossless 5.1 channel sound (no Atmos?) and a fan friendly assortment of extras. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark will probably leave diehard genre fans wanting but, should find an audience with those not looking for a deeper dive. Give it a rent on Blu-ray and see what you think.

 

Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS2000 4K Ultra High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6-HDR Meter from Spectracal)
Stewart Filmscreen – Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16×9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV7704 Audio/Video Processor
Emotiva XPA-7 Gen 3 Seven Channel Amplifier
Emotiva XPA-11 Gen 3 Amplifier
Panasonic DP-UB820 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton “Ergo” and Canton In-Ceiling Series Speakers
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
Dual SVS PC4000 Cylinder Subwoofers
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) – Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
AC Infinity Aircom T8 Component Cooling Systems