To say that the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series by Alvin Schwartz had an impact on me would be a study in understatements. I’m a girl who read Bluenose Ghosts (a collection of “true” ghost stories collected from oral history and folklore) at age 9. By 12, I’d read Schwartz’s series so many times I could practically recite any story from the books, word for word.
When I heard that it was being made into a movie, I was conflicted. I would love to get the chills from these stories all over again as an adult. However, it could so easily end up in the realm of “cute scary,” especially since it’s considered a book series for kids. But in stepped André Øvredal (The Autopsy of Jane Doe) as director and Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) as the producer, and I started to believe that this could be done right, after all.
Of course, the first question many fans of the books had was: How are they going to combine a collection of disconnected stories into a cohesive narrative for a movie? Set in the 1960s, the film follows a group of kids who explore a creepy, abandoned, and haunted house and discover “Sarah Bellows’s book.” The book is filled with creepy stories. As the group begins to read them, things start happening for real in their small town. A teenager goes missing. One of their friends is the subject of the story that they are reading right now! The children are left to ask, what evil forces did they wake by reading the book, and what will it take to stop it?
The whole “book that comes to life” trope has always been a soft spot for me. From The Neverending Story to the anime Fushigi Yugi, it’s a premise that always speaks to me. It says a lot about the written word and the power it has to change the world, figuratively and literally. Make it a book of horror stories that come to life, and I am here for it!
The movie looks wonderfully creepy, too. The retro setting capitalizes on the Stranger Things vibe that works so well. It doesn’t shy away from making the horror creatures truly scary, even by adult standards. I appreciate that. The stories and illustrations in Schwartz’s books trusted its audience to be able to handle the scariness. That’s a lot of what made the books so enduring. As a child, I felt like I wasn’t being condescended too. The movie looks like it will accomplish the same thing. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark looks like it will be a far cry from the Goosebumps movie with Jack Black, and that’s the best thing I could hope for.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark will come out August 9 this summer, and I will definitely be in line to see it.