Ahead of the release of Guillermo Del Toro’s film adaptation of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, there’s a new documentary about the book series. The 1 hour and 20 minute documentary Scary Stories invites various authors, musicians, scholars and even the author Alvin Schwartz’s family to discuss what the series means to them.
The original series is made up of three books which were written in the 1980s/early 1990s. Each one contained an anthology of over 20 scary stories that became hugely popular among American children. According to the documentary, over 7 million copies were sold and it was the #1 most banned of the 1990s, making the series incredibly controversial. Through archive footage and talking heads, the documentary also explores the reasons why people rallied to get it banned, fearing the stories were too ‘disturbing’ for elementary level children.
The series of books were incredibly divisive, yet the documentary presents both for and against cases in a very balanced way. It’s informative, respectful, and offers great insight into the issues surrounding the books. It’s also clear how dear the series still is to many, especially Schwartz’ children who speak very fondly about the folklore that inspired him over the years. He wrote 50 books over his life, but Scary Stories remained his most popular throughout.
Even for someone like me, who has never read any of the books, this was a fascinating little documentary. I learned so much about the significance of Scary Stories across the US, and people’s seriously divisive opinions about the material within. Censorship has always been such a big, global issue, so it came as no surprise to learn there was such a backlash towards children consuming darker tales and sharing them with their friends.
Ever since Guillermo Del Toro’s film adaptation was announced, I’ve felt equally disturbed and excited about what I’m about to witness, and this documentary has certainly helped with that. Getting to see some of the original artwork and characters was a real treat, and has got me intrigued about how well that’s going to translate on the big screen. Since a lot of Schwartz’ original characters are open to interpretation, I am certainly excited to see it through Del Toro’s!
This documentary comes highly recommended for those of you who want to learn more about the history of the Scary Stories series. Even if you haven’t read the books like me, I believe you can get a lot out of it. It’s interesting to see how horror can be written for children and do so well. Running at 1 hr 30 mins, it’s such an easy and captivating watch, with so many different voices and opinions to really paint a picture of what this series is all about.
On top of this, it’s a very well made documentary that asks the right questions, and is edited together just right. It knows how to keep the audience interested through debates, questions and archive footage. You find yourself completely immersed in the Scary Stories universe, no matter what your stance is. It’s made my excitement for the upcoming film even bigger, and I’d like to thank them for that.