Guillermo del Toro Didn't Make 'Scary Stories' an Anthology for One Reason

"An anthology film is something I love."

It might seem like an easy win to turn Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, the beloved anthology book, into a beloved anthology film, but Guillermo del Toro rarely takes the easy route. Del Toro revealed Monday why he decided to mold unconnected tales into a single narrative, and why he thinks it makes the entire story even better.

Del Toro, a producer for the movie (out August 9), and director André Øvredal, hosted a preview screening of two complete scenes from Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, which is based on the cult young adult novels of the same name by Alvin Schwartz and memorably illustrated by Stephen Gammell.

When the opportunity to adapt the books came, del Toro knew he didn’t want to make it an anthology film mirroring the way the books are structured, even if that was a tempting.

“An anthology film is something I love,” he said. “I love to watch them, but they’re always as bad as the worst story. They’re never as good as the best one.”

André Øvredal with Guillermo del Toro on Monday in New York.

Henrik Knudsen

Instead, he “thought it would be interesting” to weave the tales into one narrative. He thought of the genre of young adult movies, “that was about the end of childhood, about kids at a time when things were changing forever.”

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark takes place in suburban America, 1969. A group of kids, led by Stella (Zoe Colletti) find a magical book in a haunted house that writes them stories that are explicitly made to haunt them, both on the page and in their real life.

On the film’s period setting, del Toro explained, “This is [set in] 1969, a crucial period for America, and the end of a childhood in many ways. I thought this could be interesting, and then we can make it about storytelling and friendship and how storytelling changes who you are and what you are.”

For Scary Stories, del Toro reused a story element — a magical book that writes before the readers’ eyes — from his 2006 Oscar-winning film Pan’s Labyrinth.

Del Toro premiering the new trailer for 'Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark'

Henrik Knudsen

“We thought of a book,” he said. “I have in Pan’s Labyrinth a book called the Book of Crossroads in which the girl writes what can happen next. I thought, why don’t I take that idea of that book but do it so the book knows what scares you, and tailors something to happen to you around that.”

Whether that will be enough to tie together a collection of bone-chilling scary stories remains to be seen. But based on the footage we saw at Monday’s event, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark will be just as scary as the book its based on.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark will be released in theaters on August 9.

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