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SYFY WIRE Scary Stories to tell in the dark

Guillermo del Toro says Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark focuses on books' 'greatest hits'

By Jacob Oller
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark Spider Pimple poster

With Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark finally getting a real trailer, it feels like horror fans' collective childhood nightmares have come to life, thanks to producer Guillermo del Toro and director André Øvredal. It’s even worse now that we know exactly which stories from writer Alvin Schwartz and illustrator Stephen Gammell’s three books will be making it onto the big screen.

In an interview with /Film, del Toro and Øvredal explained how the process went about for selecting the tales they’d weave into the film adaptation’s spooky tapestry. The stories themselves come alive in the film, a la the Goosebumps adaptation, but they couldn’t fit all the campfire fables into one movie — especially since they planned to unite them all in one coherent plot rather than take an anthology approach.

“We distilled it to about five or six that we like the most, and some of them are told in their entirety,” del Toro said. “Some others are referenced. Those that know the books will see more than people who haven’t read the book, because some of them are there in name or infused one with another, or a song or rhyme. But we basically distilled it to the ones that everybody seems to remember the most. The books obviously have many, many more stories, so this could go on or not, but we said, ‘Let’s do a greatest hits.’”

These hits correspond to the film’s characters, with each fearing one of the stories most. Think of Harry Potter’s Boggart, for a fear-feasting example. Øvredal explained that the set pieces were taken from the stories “The Big Toe,” “Harold,” “The Red Spot,” “The Dream,” and “Me Tie Dough-ty Walker” — though many more were referenced throughout. And even though these stories are going to be told grimly (rather than with a Goosebumps humor), the film still aims for a young audience.

“The anticipated rating is PG-13,” del Toro said. “The idea is that the books are favorites among young readers. I think there’s two or three generations of parents that know the books, so it’s not an unknown. They know that this is like a roller coaster: it has a sense of fun — a really throwback, wholesome feeling — but it’s also scary. It’s really a ride but there’s a safety bar in it.”

With the books’ greatest hits haunting the film’s heroes, there will certainly be plenty of audience members clinging to the bar when Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark opens wide Aug. 9.