Guillermo del Toro Details Why Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark Avoided Being a Traditional Anthology Film

The Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series of books compiles a number of terrifying tales by Alvin Schwartz alongside ghastly illustrations by Stephen Gammell to frighten young readers and foster their burgeoning interest in macabre subject matter. After years of trying, filmmaker Guillermo del Toro finally managed to develop an adaptation of the series with director Andre Ovredal, with the dozens of short stories lending itself well to the anthology format. Instead, del Toro found a way to interweave the stories for a complex narrative. During an event at San Diego Comic-Con, del Toro detailed that he avoided the anthology route so that audiences wouldn't fragment the final product into the things they liked least.

“When we started talking about this about five years ago, I had to think about it,” del Toro shared during the panel, per Bloody Disgusting. “Anthology films are always as bad as the worst story in them — they’re never as good as the best story.”

Genre fans have been familiar with del Toro's work for years, with 2006's Pan's Labyrinth earning the director immense amounts of acclaim and opening up a number of opportunities for him. Interestingly, del Toro cited that film as the key to bringing Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark to life, as he found an organic way to blend multiple storylines into one effective narrative.

"I remembered in Pan’s Labyrinth, I created a book called the Book of Crossroads," del Toro recalled. "I thought it could be great if we had a book that reads you, and it writes what you’re most afraid of. Then the theme became stories we tell each other.”

In the film, 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 lands in theaters on August 9th.

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