Several years ago filmmaker B. Harrison Smith helmed the ambitious, but flawed, Death House. His latest movie, Where the Scary Things Are, promises to be just as ambitious. Just hitting VOD platforms this week, no reviews are circulating for this one yet. But it promises to mix urban legends, monsters, viral social media, and a Goonies-esque cast all into one movie.
A group of teenagers calling themselves ‘The Dockers’ spend their time hanging out at an abandoned haunted theme park hoping one of their latest videos goes viral. But these disenfranchised loners find a new dangerous way to pass the time when their teacher assigns a ‘Create your own urban legend’ project. Soon thereafter they discover that a local legend may be very true and decide to exploit it to their own whims.
Where The Scary Things Are Neglects Its Best Idea
If we gloss over the movie’s misleading promotional poster, Where The Scary Things Are still holds an interesting premise. Writer and director B. Harrison Smith (Death House) ambitiously promises to mix horror, viral social media, and urban legends. Harrison’s introduction of the ‘Lockjaw’ legend followed by The Dockers’ discovery of an actual monster should at least result in some guilty pleasure horror. Plenty of good horror movies have launched from urban legends including When a Stranger Calls and Candyman. And the bits of Where The Scary Things Are that sort of work revolve around its monster – Crockamoley. Despite its low budget, the creature effects here are impressive – Crockamoley looks like a beefed up Tar Man from Return of the Living Dead. In addition, the gore effects exceed the limited financial resources and Harrison knows how to film them.
That is, Where The Scary Things Are offers little information about its legend and even less about the actual monster discovered.
Too bad that’s where the positives dry up. For some reason Harrison does almost nothing with his urban legends setup. That is, Where The Scary Things Are offers little information about its legend and even less about the actual monster discovered. In part, the problem stems from a screenplay that divides its attention too much. Harrison also seems interested in exploring the toxicity of viral social media and our likes obsessed culture. Plenty of horror movies have tackled this topic – very few have turned out to be good. On one hand, the monster movie hurts itself through a lack of focus. Moreover, Where The Scary Things Are undoes the one theme it almost fleshes out by overindulging in the very thing it might be criticizing.
Where The Scary Things Are Lacks a Single Likable Protagonist
Did you love Data, Chunk, and Mouth in The Goonies? How about Riche Tozier and Eddie Kaspbrak from It? But, guess what? You won’t love the band of kids running wild in Where The Scary Things Are. Yes, they come with a bunch of cute nicknames like Scribble, Snack, Mighty, and Bran. But that’s where the similarities end. Like another recent horror release, Dashcam, Harrison misunderstands how audience identification works. Calling themselves ‘The Dockers” – because they hack personal information to bully others – these budding psychopaths do regular teen stuff like setting a homeless man’s hair on fire and uploading it to YouTube. Not a single character in this movie is remotely likeable.
Not a single character in this movie is remotely likeable.
Perhaps if Harrison had given his monster, Crockamoley, some background and screen time we’d have a sympathetic monster to dole out justice. Instead, Crockamoley is an underdeveloped plot point that spends most of its time in the background. Where the Scary Things Are forces us to spend time with irredeemable characters whose comeuppance comes too late and underwhelm. Maybe Harrison’s intent was to skewer Zoomer culture and our vapid social media culture. If so, it doesn’t remotely work. And the less said about how the movie increasingly casts Selina Flanscha’s ‘Ayla’ as an amoral vamp, the better.
Where The Scary Things Are Wastes Its Premise
Very little works with Where The Scary Things Are. And it’s not that the idea of The Goonies meets Rated-R horror itself doesn’t work. After all, ‘The Loser’s Club’ in Stephen King’s It kind did the same thing. And those movies gave us a lovable group of outcasts with whom to identify and cheer on. Conversely, Where The Scary Things Are forces you to spend time with a group of young, psychopathic assholes. Their comeuppance comes too late, ends too abruptly and arrives at the hands of an underdeveloped monster. Maybe if Smith had given Crockamoley some character – making it a sympathetic monster – the finale might have had some impact. As it stands, this indie horror is a painful slog to endure.