The movie “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” is based on the three volumes of the same title by author Alvin Schwartz. The poster outside the cinema wishes to remind us all these were banned books in the US.
A lot of good that banning did.
Remember the uproar back in 2003 about Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code shaking up our country’s Catholic sensibilities? That book probably flew off the shelves faster thanks to the daily discussion and free publicity.
I digress. Despite Scary Stories being a book for young adults, the stories were macabre, violent and disgusting and there was no redeeming value. The evil often happened randomly and good did not necessarily triumph over evil. What gave it stories extra creep factor were the black and white sketches by artist Stephen Gammell. You could definitely see how they induce nightmares of gnarly, almost corpse like figures for instance.
The three volumes were released between 1981 and 1991, so definitely the film version has this “Stranger Things” and “It” vibe involving kids and having that nostalgia factor.
Instead of setting Scary Stories in the ‘80s when the books came out, it’s set in 1968 in Mill Valley, Pennsylvania (it’s the movie’s version of Hawkins, Indiana and Derry, Maine). The movie is set in the fall, when recruitment is going on for the Vietnam War and Richard Nixon is about to be proclaimed President of the United States.
Friends Stella, Augie and Chuck are planning a prank on some bullies who are out to steal their Halloween candy. Things go awry and the kids end up spending a good chunk of the night at a haunted house with their new accomplice Ramon. In the haunted house, they find the book of town spook Sarah Bellows. Her stories come to life with animated dark red ink.
These are some of the unforgettable short pieces featured from Schwartz’s collection: “Harold,” “The Big Toe,” “The Red Spot,” “The Pale Lady,” “Me Tie Dough-ty Walker” and “The Haunted House.”
“Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” has the stuff of creepy children’s nightmares, but it remains horror-lite. There were other nightmares at the time (1968) like the kids being sent to their deaths and dismemberment in Vietnam (an idea which is not at all part of the book).
Guillermo del Toro is the producer for this film as well as man behind the “screenstory.” André Ovredal directs. Also watch out for Donovan’s original and Lana del Rey’s dreamy versions of the 1966 classic, “Season of the Witch.”