If ever there were a name to get modern fans of the macabre and monstrous jonesin’ for more, it would be Guillermo del Toro. Serving as producer and co-writer, André Øvredal’s feature length adaptation of Alvin Schwartz’ classic horror tales is sure to give GDT-faithful something creepy to sink into this August.
In 1968 suburban Mill Valley (Everytown, USA) the rhythms of tranquility are disturbed when a group of teenagers stumble upon a book of--guess!--scary stories. But that wouldn’t be so bad in itself, right? The problem comes when the book starts to write its own stories incorporating Mill Valley’s youth, and the terror lifts from the page to reality. Incorporating Schwartz’ singular short stories into a whirlwind of terror and unease, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is sure to be a good time for any curious and brave souls. Take my word for it, I caught a peek!
At a press event for the trailer launch today I was able to catch a look at two clips from Scary Stories, as well as engage in a Q&A with del Toro and Øvredal. The clips highlighted the “elegant” approach to genre filmmaking del Toro praised in Øvredal’s work, discussing how the best of horror comes at its subject like any drama or “serious” movie would, rather than rush in for blood and guts.
With an attention to detail and craft, Scary Stories looks to be above the typical schlock that, depending on who you ask, gives horror a murky reputation. Our teenagers look like teenagers, rather than 25-year-old supermodels posing for the camera. There’s a great attention to detail bringing the gruesome monsters and apparitions to life, faithfully rendering Stephen Gammell’s nightmarish illustrations.
Particularly interesting was the mention of Scary Stories as a “family horror movie” (“To bring joy to children,” as del Toro gleefully joked). Based on the clips I saw, featuring spiders under the skin and wailing corpses, this doesn’t exactly mean rainbows and kittens. But what Øvredal’s film gets at is a sense of adventure alongside its horror the way Stranger Things does for Netflix or the recent It adaptation does. To quote del Toro, horror films can show the ugliness of the world and still say “it’s okay,” educating on “sex and death,” or the two things del Toro says kids are most curious about!
Scary Stories looks to deliver on both of its titular promises: A story, first and foremost with characters that you give a damn about and an overall sense of purpose, but also a spookfest to take your breath away. A clip I saw featured a long, winding build to an explosive jolt of terror. There’s intention behind this film, with care and craft being dedicated to scares rather than simply churning them out as fast as one can.
It was a great experience to hear the filmmakers discuss the intention behind the film, and certainly piqued my interest where before the trailers left me a little unsure. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark opens August 9, 2019.