On Halloween night in 1968, three teenagers in the small town of Mill Valley - horror-obsessed amateur writer Stella and her friends Auggie and Chuck, play a prank on school bully Tommy Milner and evade him with the help of drifter Ramon. The group decides to explore a local haunted house which belonged to the Bellows family who helped found the town. Inside they find a secret room and a book of scary stories belonging to Sarah Bellows who is not in any family photographs. Tommy tracks them down and locks them in the room along with his girlfriend and Chuck's sister Ruth. After Tommy leaves, they are released by an unseen presence and escape.
In her room Stella discovers that a new story entitled "Harold" is writing itself in the book and the lead character is Tommy. Meanwhile, Tommy is attacked by a scarecrow called Harold in a cornfield and is stabbed by the creature with a pitchfork before vomiting hay and seemingly transforming. Unsettled, Stella and the others investigate and find a scarecrow wearing Tommy's clothes and with similar hair. Although Stella is convinced that Tommy has been turned into a scarecrow, the others are skeptical, especially Ramon who fears the police will see him as a suspect in the disappearance due to his earlier altercation with Tommy.
That night, Stella and Ramon witness a new story being written "The Big Toe" with Auggie as the main character. The pair attempt to warn him of the threat - a living corpse looking for its missing toe which is inside a stew that Auggie has been eating. Auggie flees, pursued by the corpse and hides in his room but is attacked by it and dragged under his bed, disappearing. Terrified and realizing they are next, the group try and fail to destroy the book before deciding to research into Sarah Bellows's past to find any way to stop the hauntings. Meanwhile, Ruth discovers a spider bite on her cheek and as she goes to the school bathroom to inspect it, a new story with her as the main character is written: "The Red Spot". The group race to warn her and find her just as the spot explodes and releases hundreds of spiders onto Ruth. Ruth is taken to the hospital, badly traumatized but alive.
The group's investigations take them to a hospital where they discover Sarah's own brother Ephriam was performing electroshock therapy on Sarah to hide the fact that the family had been poisoning the town's water with mercury, killing children. Chuck is separated from Stella and Ramon and is confronted by The Pale Lady, a phantom from his recurring nightmares. The entity appears all around him and pulls him inside her. Stella and Ramon find Chuck's pen as the only thing left of him before they are found by hospital orderlies and arrested by Police Chief Turner who reveals that Ramon is a draft dodger. In their cells that night, Ramon reveals he skipped the draft as his brother was sent home "in pieces" and he was scared of serving. Turner's dog begins to act strangely and Ramon realizes the next creature will be "The Jangly Man", a monster from a campfire story that scared him.
The Jangly Man, able to build itself up from body parts, appears and kills Turner before attempting to kill Ramon. The pair escape the cells and Ramon tries to lure the creature away with a police car while Stella goes to the Bellows house to try and reason with Sarah. Stella is pulled back in time and witnesses Ephriam terrorizing Sarah before encountering her ghost. Meanwhile, in the present day, Ramon hides in the Bellows house and is hunted by The Jangly Man. Stella begins telling the real story of Sarah Bellows, how she was victimized by her family which turned her into a rage-filled monster and promises to tell Sarah's real story if she stops killing. Sarah forces Stella to write her story in the book in blood before both she and The Jangly Man vanish.
Ramon finally enlists in the army while Stella, with the book in her possession, sets out with a recovered Ruth to try and find a way to bring Auggie and Chuck back.
- Zoe Colletti as Stella Nicholls
- Michael Garza as Ramón Morales
- Gabriel Rush as August "Auggie" Hilderbrandt
- Austin Abrams as Tommy Milner
- Dean Norris as Deputy Roy Nicholls
- Gil Bellows as Police Chief Turner
- Lorraine Toussaint as Lou Lou
- Austin Zajur as Chuck Steinberg
- Natalie Ganzhorn as Ruth Steinberg
- Marie Ward as Mrs. Hilderbrandt
- Stephanie Belding as Reception Nurse
- Javier Botet as The Toe Monster
- Troy James as Jangly Man
- Mark Steger as Harold the Scarecrow and the Pale Lady
The Bellows FamilyEdit
- Kathleen Pollard as Sarah Bellows
- Will Carr as Dr. Ephraim Bellows
- Jane Moffat as Delanie Bellows
- Amanda Smith as Gertrude Bellows
- Brandon Knox as Harold Bellows