Guillermo del Toro wanted Scary Stories to be a nice family horror film

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Guillermo del Toro

Guillermo del Toro has long been a fan of Alvin Schwartz and Stephen Gammell's "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" series, even going so far as to purchase a number of the original illustrations when he really couldn't afford it. "I owed a lot on my mortgage and didn’t own my car," del Toro told Vulture recently. "But they were so powerful that I couldn’t let them go. They’re a part of my young imagination... I found the [stories and illustrations] so chilling. They had the powerful simplicity of a story told at a campfire." Although the series seems ripe for an anthology format, Guillermo del Toro instead conceived of a unified story with a framing narrative which follows a group of kids as they each encounter a different Scary Stories monster based on their greatest fear.

"[Anthology] is something I love, but they’re always as bad as the worst story," del Toro said. Instead, SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK will be about "storytelling and friendship, how storytelling changes who and what you are. It’s a YA movie about childhood around a time when things were changing forever, around 1968 and 1969. It’s the end of childhood in many ways — a crucial time for America … We didn’t retrofit the characters to the stories. We adapted the characters to the story." Neither del Toro nor director André Øvredal wanted to transform the stories into a "nasty horror movie," instead moving in an "Amblin-esque" direction inspired by the works of Steven Spielberg and Stephen King.

We wanted to make a family adventure. I want this to be a nice family horror film. Family is horror in itself, but sometimes, with milk and cookies, you can find something nice to watch.

Øvredal further described SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK as a "fun urban horror tale balancing humor and scares" for a YA audience. "We didn’t wanna go too young, but we wanted to honor the fact that the books are for a younger audience. We wanted to honor the material and the stories." Given that the upcoming film only brings a few of Alvin Schwartz's tales to life, there's every chance that it could spawn a sequel. Both Guillermo del Toro and André Øvredal both said that they'd love to return for more, but it all depends on how SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK is received.

The official synopsis for SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK:

It’s 1968 in America. Change is blowing in the wind…but seemingly far removed from the unrest in the cities is the small town of Mill Valley where for generations, the shadow of the Bellows family has loomed large. 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 home.

SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK will hit theaters on August 9, 2019.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, poster

Source: Vulture

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Based in Canada, Kevin Fraser has been a news editor with JoBlo since 2015. When not writing for the site, you can find him indulging in his passion for baking and adding to his increasingly large collection of movies that he can never find the time to watch.