If you too couldn’t sleep when you were little because of the book “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark,” brace yourself for more sleepless nights. The stories that gave us childhood nightmares are finally coming to the big screen — and the truth is, we couldn’t be more thrilled.
Our favorite scary tales come alive as a group of teenagers face their deepest fears after they discover a book with horrible secrets. Produced and co-written by Oscar®-winner Guillermo del Toro (THE SHAPE OF WATER) and directed by horror master André Øvredal, SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK will hit theatres on August 9.
Here’s everything you need to know about SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK.
The Books Offer Classic Scares
The three-volume horror book series was written in the 1980s and ’90s by Alvin Schwartz. He adapted folklore tales, with blood-chilling new twists, all illustrated in startling fashion by Stephen Gammell. Not to take anything away from Schwartz, but those weird illustrations, like the one above, are a huge part of the books’ scare factor — and a big inspiration for the new movie.
Fun fact: Banned from schools and libraries and often read with a flashlight under a blanket, “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” is said to be the most-challenged book of the 1990s. The phenomenon (and controversy) of the books will even be explored in a documentary ahead of the live-action film.
Like a Scary “American Idol”
In a footage presentation in Hollywood, Guillermo del Toro and André Øvredal revealed that the film will not be an anthology. Instead, SCARY STORIES will be a complete, unified film.
But which stories did they draw upon? SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK will feature tales from all three volumes of the series. Choosing the stories was pretty much like “American Idol,” del Toro explained. The pair chose five of their favorite tales and created an overarching narrative around them. That said, hardcore fans of the book will see references and Easter eggs that refer back to other tales from the three “Scary Stories” books.
The Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark Trailer
CBS Films dropped the first teaser trailer in late March. From this footage, we know the film will feature the Pale Lady, from a story called “The Dream,” and will also have elements of the stories “The Red Spot,” “The Big Toe” and “Harold.”
So, What Are These Stories?
The tales in each of the three books are basically campfire stories, but those strange illustrations add a lot of atmosphere — which the film’s visuals may very well develop further, if the trailer is any indication. “The Dream” tells of a “woman with a pale face, with long black eyes and black hair,” who first appears in a woman’s nightmare before becoming real at the end of the story.
Giving nightmares to all teenagers out there obsessed with pimple popping, “The Red Spot” is one of the shortest stories. A girl, obsessed with perfection, notices a big red blemish on her cheek. As she pops it, a myriad of spiders crawls out of her face. “Harold,” meanwhile, is about a scarecrow who skins one of its makers. The character is seen on the poster (above), and we see glimpses of him in the trailer as well.
“The Big Toe” is the very first story of the first book. After a boy digs up a human toe in his backyard and his family somehow manages to eat it (don’t ask), the toe’s undead owner returns in search of his missing part. We got a sneak peek of exclusive footage from that one, and it was SCARY. Auggie (Gabriel Rush) is about to eat the stew containing the toe when his friends — via walkie talkie, as the movie is set in the ’80s — urge him to stop. The book they’ve found tells them what is about to happen as the action unfolds. The corpse chases Auggie, repeatedly howling, “Where is my to-o-o-o-e,” a line straight from the story and one bound to give you nightmares.
Guillermo del Toro has mastered the art of practical effects and creature creation. SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK promises to deliver creatures that are just as chilling as the original illustrations.
A fan of the original art himself, it was crucial for del Toro to remain as true to Gammell’s iconic illustrations as possible. Capturing the creepy combination of the benign yet empty eyes of the Pale Lady was one of the toughest challenges. No wonder the Pale Lady is also the monster that scares del Toro the most. There’s also a new monster called the Jangly Man, probably based on a creature from the story “What Do You Come For.”
So, How Is Guillermo del Toro Involved, Anyway?
Del Toro (above left) has been attached to the project since 2016, but it really all started back when del Toro was a teenager. “I basically was roaming through a bookstore, in San Antonio, Texas,” said the producer. “I was in my early teens, and I came upon this volume that had an irresistible title: ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.’ The cover illustration was so creepy — the illustrations got me first.”
Del Toro’s interest was sparked once again when he discovered a gallery selling Gammell’s original art in 1997. “I was really, really broke, but I was extravagant and bought the key illustrations from the book that I love, which led to a lot of financial trouble after that and marital trouble after that,” said Del Toro. “I need to have the key images that affected my youth.”
Del Toro is not directing SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK. As the producer and co-writer, the award-winning director joked about not being the one to get “punched” if something went wrong with the adaptation. He entrusted Norwegian director André Øvredal (above right), who he first met after the two exchanged some tweets about horror films. Del Toro was impressed by the horror pedigree of Øvredal, who has films such as TROLLHUNTER and THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE under his belt.
Growing up in Norway, where the books were never published, Øvredal had not read the series. His biggest challenge? Living up to the expectations of Guillermo del Toro and a devoted audience who grew up with the stories.
The Scary Stories Cast
The film is centered around Stella Nicholls, played by Zoe Colletti (ANNIE), who finds the books. She is best friends with prankster Chuck Steinberg, played by Austin Zajur (FIST FIGHT), and the rational Auggie Hilderbrandt, portrayed by Gabriel Rush (THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL).
The cast also features Michael Garza (THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 1) as Ramón Morales, the new kid in town; Austin Abrams (“The Walking Dead”) as the enraged Tommy Milner; and Natalie Ganzhorn (MAKE IT POP), who plays Chuck’s sister.
We will also see Dean Norris from “Breaking Bad” as Roy Nicholls, THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION’s Gil Bellows as Police Chief Turner, and Lorraine Toussaint of “Orange Is the New Black” as Lou Lou. And the monster from “The Big Toe” is played by veteran creature actor Javier Botet, who has terrified us in films like IT and MAMA.
Check back in with the AMC Scene soon for more SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK info!