- The children’s horror book series “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” was written in the 1980s and early ’90s by Alvin Schwartz, and illustrated by Stephen Gammell.
- Now the stories are being adapted into a single movie about a group of teenagers living in the 1960s.
- The film is co-written and produced by Guillermo del Toro, and arrives in theatres this August.
- Warning: Minor spoilers ahead.
Author Alvin Schwartz dominated the children’s horror genre with his three volumes of “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark,” published starting in 1981. Now the iconic tales are coming to life in a new movie adaptation set to debut in theatres this August.
Keep reading to learn everything you should know about the “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” movie.
The movie takes place in 1960s America and will follow a group of teenagers who read the scary tales
According to a released synopsis of the movie, “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” (the film) will take place in 1968 in a small town called Mill Valley.
“For generations, the shadow of the Bellows family has loomed large,” the synopsis reads. “It is in their mansion on the edge of town that Sarah, a young girl with horrible secrets, turned her tortured life into a series of scary stories, written in a book that has transcended time – stories that have a way of becoming all too real for a group of teenagers who discover Sarah’s terrifying tome.”
Several of the stories contained in Sarah’s book will be pulled straight from Schwartz’s books.
The original 3 books came with memorable illustrations
“Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” (1981), “More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” (1984), and “Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones” (1991) all feature folklore tales that were “retold” by Schwartz. The books were frequently banned from schools and libraries in the 1990s, and the American Library Association says it’s “one of the most challenged children’s book of the last 30 years.”
Perhaps more memorable than the stories themselves were the eerie drawings accompanying each chapter. Illustrator Stephen Gammell created a distinct unsettling feel to his drawings, helping to cement the terrifying characters and scenarios in kids’ minds.
In the movie adaptation, some of those specific character designs are being translated into CGI figures who will haunt the cast of characters.
The movie will adapt at least 4 of the book’s stories: ‘The Big Toe,’ ‘The Red Spot,’ and ‘The Dream,’ and ‘Harold’
“The Big Toe” is the very first story in Schwartz’s original published book. It’s about a boy who finds a big toe sticking out of the ground outside his house, and he tugs on it until it comes loose. Then the boy brings it inside and his mother cooks up the toe for a tasty dinner.
Later that night the boy wakes up and hears a voice saying “Where is my toe?” and getting closer and closer. The story ends when the voice is right next to his bed and shouts “YOU’VE GOT IT!”
Then comes a series of tales from Schwartz’s third book, all of which were teased in the Super Bowl commercials aired on CBS. We can start with the creepy body-horror story called “The Red Spot.”
Despite only taking up half a page in Schwartz’s book, “The Red Spot” is one of the most memorable pieces of spooky folklore in the series. It starts with a young girl sleeping when a spider crawls over her face, pausing briefly on her cheek.
The next morning, she sees a red spot on her face. The spot eventually grows into a painful boil, before it bursts and a “swarm of tiny spiders from the eggs their mother had laid in her cheek” pours out.
Next we go to “The Dream.” In the CBS Films teaser video, it’s referred to as “The Pale Lady” thanks to the central scary figure in the story described as “a woman with a pale face and black eyes and long black hair.”
When an artist has a dream one night about a house with an eerie bedroom, she sees the Pale Lady. The figure in her dream tells her, “This is an evil place – flee while you can.”
Then the artist goes to a brand new town and is led to a bedroom just like the one from her dream. The Pale Lady appears in her doorway, and the story ends with the artist running away.
Then there’s “Harold,” the title of another chapter in “Scary Stories 3” about a scarecrow doll made by two cow farmers. The anthropomorphic creatures comes to life, and let’s just say things don’t end so well for the farmers who made old Harold.
Though Harold wasn’t in any of the released video teasers, he’s featured prominently on the official poster for the movie so fans are expecting to see him in the film.
There might also be newly invented horrors in the movie
One of the Super Bowl Sunday teaser videos was titled “Jangly Man,” which doesn’t match any of Schwartz’s chapters. Vox reporter Aja Romano has speculated that it could be a mash-up between the creature in“What Do You Come For?” (a “gangling man” who comes down a chimney to terrorize an old woman) and a Slender Man character, which would capitalise on the trend of that digital folk tale.
The movie is co-written and produced by Guillermo del Toro
“Shape of Water” and “Pan’s Labrinyth” writer and director Guillermo del Toro helped adapt the “Scary Stories” books into the single movie storyline, along with screenplay writers Dan and Kevin Hageman. The movie is directed by André Øvredal, who also helmed del Toro’s animated Netflix series “Trollhunters.”
“Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” will star Zoe Colletti (as Stella Nicholls), Michael Garza (as Ramon Morales), Gabriel Rush (as Auggie Hilderbrandt), Austin Abrams (as Tommy Milner), Dean Norris (as Roy Nicholls), Gil Belllows (as Police Chief Turner), Lorraine Toussaint (as Lou Lou), Austin Zajur (as Chuck Steinberg), Natalie Ganzhorn (as Ruth Steinburg).
‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’ arrives in theatres this August
Watch the full teaser trailer compilation below.
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