Earlier today, CBS Films gave an early look at the August 9 movie Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, based on the horror story collection collected by Alvin Schwartz and illustrated by Stephen Gammell. The film is directed by André Øvredal (Trollhunter) and produced by Oscar winner Guillermo del Toro, neither of them a stranger to the world of horror. The film is written by del Toro with Dan and Kevin Hageman (Hotel Transylvania, The LEGO Movie).
Both Øvredal and del Toro were on hand at the Roxy Theater for a presentation of footage, the first trailer and a brief QnA where no one was allowed to record, so sorry, no direct quotes.
They were introduced by Nick Meyer from Entertainment One, who had been wanting to work with del Toro since reading an early script for Pan’s Labyrinth, and Terry Press from CBS Films. Then brought the idea of adapting Scary Stories into a movie to del Toro to see if he would be interested, and he hired Øvredal, being a fan of his work on Trollhunter and The Autopsy of Jane Doe.
Del Toro was his usual jovial wise-cracking self throughout as he talked about first experiencing the Schwartz books and so admiring Gammell’s cover and interior artwork that he shelled out for nine original pieces in the early ’00s.
There have been three books in the series, published in 1981, 1984 and 1991, with six of the stories being featured in the movie. Del Toro made it clear that he wasn’t interested in making an anthology movie, as much as he loves them, because those movies are usually “as bad as the worst story” rather than opposite. Del Toro appreciated the simplicity of the stories in Schwartz’s books, as they felt like stories that could be passed down from generation to generation or told around a campfire.
To avoid being an “anthology movie,” Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is a story based around a group of kids, specifically Zoe Margaret Colletti‘s Stella and her friends who find a book in a haunted house that writes stories based on your greatest fears. You can actually learn more about in the first trailer, describe below.
After Øvredal said a few words, they showed the first clip which is of a teenager named Auggie, played by Gabriel Rush, who is in the kitchen on the phone. He looks in the fridge and says that he’s found a pot of stew, and he takes it out to eat. (We learned later that Auggie is a bit of a nut in terms of what he eats to avoid chemical additives, which just makes the scene funnier.) Anyway, Auggie opens the pot and gets a spoon and then a voice comes over a walkie talkie. It’s Stella warning Auggie not to eat anything.
Before I go on, I should mention that the clip was introduced as being inspired by the story “The Big Toe,” about a corpse looking for its toe, so as Auggie starts eating, you can only imagine what’s going to happen.
Of course, Auggie starts eating but as he’s talking to Stella something that’s obviously a toe floats up to the top of the stew, and she’s reading him the story about a corpse looking for it’s toe. “Where is my big toe?” she reads just as we hear a whisper from down the hall saying the same thing. Then Auggie sticks a spoonful of stew with the toe in his mouth, and he suddenly realizes what it is, spits it out and starts gagging as he knocks the bowl to the kitchen floor.
He suddenly realizes that this corpse is after him, so he makes a run for it, going into a room and closing the door to hide. As the corpse’s cries of “Where is my big toe?” gets closer and louder, he tries to escape through the window with no luck. He then decides to hide under the bed, and if you know ANYTHING about horror movies, you do NOT want to go under a bed. EVER. I won’t spoil what happens, but let’s just say that it’s not good for Auggie.
The second clip is based on “The Red Spot,” which is harder not to spoil, because it involves a vain actress at Stella’s high school who think she’s been bitten by a spider. She’s preparing for a play at the school when that bit, which looks like a large pus-filled zit, is a little obvious, so one of her castmates suggest she do something about it. The girl goes into the bathroom, looks in the mirror and starts poking and pinching the giant thing on her face. I don’t want to spoil what happens but when a little black “whisker” pops out of the boil thing, you might immediately realize what it is. (You can look at the pictures of the posters around the event below and see what happens.) Meanwhile, the other kids already know what’s happening from reading the book and they go looking for the bathroom in which it happens.
The new trailer itself (which you can watch below) was pretty good at getting the general story across, beginning in a cornfield with a scarecrow, which is “Harold” from the books and a bunch of jocks hitting it with a baseball bat. We then meet Stella and her friends as they go into a haunted house, in which they find the book that sets things in motion. Stella tells the book to tell her a story, and since it tells stories based on people’s fears, that’s what it does, as we saw a few peaks at some of the stories, including “Pale Lady” and others, ending with a brief glimpse of “The Jangly Man.” (Some might remember that CBS Films presented a few teaser clips during the Super Bowl back in January with a first teaser trailer in March but this trailer and the clips were the first real idea of what to expect from the movie.)
What’s interesting is that the filmmakers cast the FX people to create the various creatures rather than having one shop do all of them, and part of that was to make each of them unique but also very much based on how they’re depicted in Gammell’s illustrations. They also don’t have any worries about the movie getting a PG-13 rating as they’ve kept the blood and violence to a minimum, as well as the language and sex that generally gets movies an R-rating. Del Toro also thinks that if you approach a movie with the right heart, you can make it scary without necessarily worrying about the MPAA putting the kibosh on your plans to bring in younger horror fans. (As we learned, the movie looks plenty scary even without an R-rating.)
Let us know in the comments if you’re a fan of the books, what you think of the trailer and if you’re planning to see the movie. You can also see a couple new story-specific posters from the movie below.
Edward Douglas has been writing about movies and other forms of entertainment for over 25 years, so he’s probably older than you.