The conclusion of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark ends one American nightmare and sets up another. Directed by Norwegian filmmaker André Øvredal, the 2019 horror film is an adaptation of the short story collection written by Alvin Schwartz and illustrated by Stephen Gammell. For dramatic purposes, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark primarily focuses on two young women who must overcome their personal demons in order to find personal salvation. On a more subtle level, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark incorporates sociopolitical themes and commentary about internalized fear in Vietnam War-era America, which connects with a cryptic time travel sub-plot.
In Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Zoe Colletti plays Stella Nicholls, who lives in Mill Valley, Pennsylvania and loves horror stories. On Halloween, Stella and her friends flee from school bullies after a prank gone wrong. They arrive at the Bellows family home, a vacant and infamous mansion. The teenagers find a book written by Sarah Bellows, a girl who was locked up by her parents during the late 19th century. Stella brings the book home, as she’s intrigued by Sarah’s writing and the experiences that informed her narrative approach. Unfortunately, Stella and her friends discover that Sarah’s grief transformed her into a rage-filled monster, and that her terrifying creations haunt Mill Valley as a result.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark explains why monsters chase after scared Mill Valley kids, but doesn't explain how, or if, the victims can return to the real world. Here's a breakdown of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark's ending, and what it all means.
What Happens In Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark's Ending
During Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’s final act, Stella discovers that Sarah was tortured by her doctor brother Ephraim at the town hospital. She also finds audio recordings that painfully bring to life Sarah's traumatic experiences before her disappearance. It's also revealed that Mill Valley children died from mercury poisoning because of the Bellows family business, making it even more crucial for the family to silence Sarah.
Meanwhile, Chuck is consumed by an actual monster, the Pale Lady, who chases down the teenager and ultimately pulls him into her body. This takes place after an earlier monster attack, in which Auggie is taken away by the Toe Monster. Stella doesn't know what exactly is happening, aside from the fact that her friends become the subjects of scary stories, and subsequently disappear from the face of the earth.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark concludes with Stella traveling back in time and compromising with Sarah. She agrees to write the ghost's story, in blood, so that Sarah can be at peace, and so that the Bellows family crimes will be revealed to present-day Mill Valley residents. But how exactly did Stella transport from a dark room in 1968 to the late 19th century and come face to face with Sarah? And how exactly did her friends just disappear into nightmares? Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark doesn't quite explain the specifics of its time travel sub-plot, which is an ideal way to tease a sequel. Still, it leaves some viewers confused about the hows and whys.
What Happened To Auggie And Chuck?
Auggie's disappearance is the first event that truly terrifies Stella in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. First, she discovers Sarah's book. Then, Stella learns that a story is somehow being written by itself. But she doesn't actually see Tommy Milner (Austin Abrams) being killed, or consumed, by Harold the Scarecrow. Later, when a new story appears written in blood, Stella frantically attempts to communicate the essentials to Auggie, who has absolutely no clue that he's about to eat a toe stew, courtesy of the Toe Monster. Chuck later similarly disappears into some type of alternate dimension.
This may be frustrating for views because Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark never shows the two boys being trapped somewhere else, hoping that they'll be found by Stella and Chuck's sister Ruth (Natalie Ganzhorn). This also works as sequel set-up, but it may also correlate with the film's deeper subtext. Sometimes, people just disappear. Sadly, the loved ones of lost souls don't always receive the answers they want or need, certainly when literal wars are being fought.
The REAL Meaning Of Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark's Ending
Mill Valley teenagers experience domestic horror in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark; they're unsafe in their own hometown. But the film's real meaning lies in the Vietnam War subtext. In 1968, teenagers were being drafted to fight for the United States overseas. Some teenagers were already training at boot camps before making a life-altering trip to Vietnam, while others were asked to immediately report to basic training locations. Whatever the case, American teenagers were disappearing in a matter of days. In that sense, Auggie and Chuck's unknown locations could be thematically linked to families that anxiously awaited news about their loved ones in Vietnam. The ongoing war is consistently referenced throughout Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, keeping this idea at the forefront.
Ramón experiences various types of horror in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. His brother was killed in Vietnam, and he's the target of racial slurs. During the film’s climax, the Jangly Man chases Ramón throughout Mill Valley. This monster may indeed be one of Sarah’s creations, but it’s connected to Ramón's unprocessed trauma. He says that his brother came home “in pieces” from Vietnam and the Jangly Man is a monster that's pieced together from various separated limbs: the ghost of Ramón’s brother, or his own internalized fear, appears to be chasing him. Auggie and Chuck's cryptic disappearances further parallel Ramón's departure to Vietnam. They're gone, and nobody in Mill Valley can know for sure if they'll return.
In the 1800s, Sarah similarly experienced domestic horror. She undoubtedly knew little about immigration and discrimination as she was victimized in her own home, and indeed the monsters she created figuratively embody her pain. But Sarah's origin story is connected to the American Industrial Revolution, a time when immigrants were also experiencing a type of domestic horror. It parallels Ramón's experiences of racism in 1960s America just as he's forced to leave to defend the United States. Like Sarah, Ramón struggles with an internal war while attempting to deal with frightening day-to-day realities.
At the end of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Stella uses her writing voice to not only better understand her emotions, but to speak up for people who need help. From Stella's point of view, Sarah, Ramón, Auggie, and Chuck are beside her in spirit, but they're also far removed from reality. This aspect is reminiscent of director Michael Cimino's 1978 Vietnam-themed film The Deer Hunter, which is also set in late '60s Pennsylvania.
Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark Sets Up A Sequel
Given the critical acclaim for Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, a sequel is highly likely, especially if the original movie outperforms its $28 million budget at the box office. The film ends with a blatant sequel set-up, as Stella begins writing and states that she’s going to find Auggie and Chuck. Looking ahead, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark 2 could easily incorporate Sarah's tragic backstory and even more of her monster creations. It’s certainly possible that the full Bellows story remains to be told, evidenced by the reveal that mercury poisoning killed Mill Valley children during the 1800s. But a potential sequel would likely involve Stella’s experiences as a female writer living in America during the Vietnam War, or shortly thereafter.
For a sequel, there’s much to explore in how Stella reacts to the immediate world around her, whether it’s themes associated with war, feminism, or racism. She's seen leaving her hometown, and will probably relocate to a bigger city to pursue her creative interests. In the next Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark installment, Stella will probably learn more life lessons from American history, thus changing her perspective and approach as a young female writer. But when will her friends return home? Only time will tell.