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Guillermo del Toro’s ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’ Has Found its Home

The children’s horror anthology will finally stir your elemental fears theatrically.
Del Toro
By  · Published on April 30th, 2018

The children’s horror anthology will finally stir your elemental fears theatrically.

We all know the story. The urban legend in which a couple necking on lover’s lane gets spooked by a scraping sound circling their parked car. They speed off in a fright, and after gaining safe distance from the potential danger, they discover a prosthetic hook dangling from their door handle. The fledgling lovers escaped death from the piercing weapon of a hook-handed serial killer. Initiate goosebumps.

“The Hook” was a story told to me by various friends in grade school, and one I graduated in telling to other friends and family. It’s a classic campfire story, designed to send shivers down your spine, and torment the nightmares of susceptible youth. The tiny narrative also happens to be just one of 29 like-minded horrors found within Alvin Schwartz’s original “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.”

The three-part collection gathers some of the most diabolical and horrendous acts of folklore, and barely waters them down for children’s consumption. If your teacher was cool enough, you could always find them on the classroom library shelf. If your teacher was a square, you had to dig a little deeper to devour these terror tales. I always had a copy hidden under my bed.

For years, Hollywood has been attempting to bring these ghoulish delights to the silver screen. Late last year, we reported that Norwegian filmmaker André Øvredal would be taking the reigns for the adaptation. That version of the script was expected to follow a group of teenagers investigating a series of strange deaths plaguing their neighborhood. However, the project was struggling to find financing.

Fear not. Variety is now reporting that CBS Films and Entertainment One will back the adaptation based on their enthusiasm for the recently crowned Best Director, Guillermo del Toro. While he will not be helming the movie, del Toro is still on board as producer and co-writer. This newfound adulation surrounding The Shape of Water looks to kick down a whole series of doors that once blocked his creative outlets.

Steve Bertram, the president of Entertainment One, exclaims his keenness for this dark pairing of material and producer:

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, led by the incomparable Guillermo del Tor, is such a chillingly fun ride that it’s sure to leave audiences around the world jumping in their seats.”

No doubt. For now, del Toro seems like sure-thing for studios. Whatever you thought of the quality of the film itself (p.s. it’s awesome), The Shape of Water revealed a mass audience willing to accept del Toro’s freaky nature. He has an opportunity to plunge further into his demented imagination than he’s ever gone before, and he’s damn well going to take advantage of every opportunity that comes his way.

The short stories provide plenty of jolts for the reader, but most remember the anthology for Stephen Gammell’s ghastly illustrations. For the film to land those deep-rooted primordial fears, Øvredal and del Toro’s design team have to replicate those chilling paintings. Gammell’s work succeeded because of its delicate balance of palatable dread. Those covers always forced you to muster courage before cracking the spine.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark has the potential for big dollars. Nothing too gory, or revolting. The stories are sharp scares designed for a PG-13. Think of the success of A Quiet Place. Here is another horror film that feeds off conceptual terror, unnerving you mentally before they even reveal the threat visually. Everything goes bump in the night.

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Brad Gullickson is a Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects and Senior Curator for One Perfect Shot. When not rambling about movies here, he's rambling about comics as the co-host of Comic Book Couples Counseling. Hunt him down on Twitter: @MouthDork. (He/Him)