Anthology films and shows seem to be all the rage right now, from the TWILIGHT ZONE reboot to Netflix’s LOVE, DEATH, & ROBOTS. Streaming services enable viewers to watch every episode in a single sitting instead of waiting a week for the next installment. Horror especially lends itself particularly well to the anthology format, perhaps due to the nature of telling campfire stories.
You won’t find Norwegian director André Øvredal lining up to see them, though. “I’m not such a big fan of anthologies,” he said in an interview at a recent SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK event. “Basically, you dip up and down too much, and you don’t really have a cohesive, unified goal.”
Øvredal, who directed TROLLHUNTER and THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE, actually assumed, like the rest of us, that SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK would be an anthology movie. “I saw the cover of the script, and I thought oh, this must be an anthology,” he explained. “But it wasn’t, and I was very happy about that. I want to structure a big tale.”
The original book series, written by Alvin Schwartz and illustrated (to countless nightmares) by Stephen Gammell, is in fact a collection of stand-alone tales, but it also includes poems, songs, and slightly humorous anecdotes. Thanks to producer Guillermo del Toro, who conceived of the original story for the film, many of these smaller snippets make cameos on top of the five main stories serving as the meat of the movie.
It turns out that SCARY STORIES is set in 1968 and centers around a group of teenage kids who discover a mysterious book, and does not, in fact, deviate too far from this central conflict. “I fell in love with the screenplay that Guillermo and Kevin and Dan [Hageman] had created, which was just this… Amblin-esque scary movie set in a period that was so exciting,” Øvredal said. “It was a unique opportunity to create both a fascinating image of America in the 60s as well as a really wonderful story about the characters, with amazing monsters, and based on a book series that was so beloved.”
It sounds like SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK has much more in common with IT than CREEPSHOW or the VHS films. And Øvredal agrees: “I’ve always wanted to make a movie about kids in this period of their lives, and being able to do that is probably the effect of things like STRANGER THINGS and IT succeeding.”
SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK, directed by Øvredal and produced by Guillermo del Toro, opens in theaters nationwide on August 9, 2019. You can check out the teaser trailer below.