27th Jun2019

‘Scary Stories’ Review

by Chris Cummings

Features: Amelia Cotter, Bruce Coville, Debbie Dadey, Tracey Dils, Betsy Johnson, Chris Larsen, Q.L. Pearce, Alvin Schwartz, Barbara Schwartz , Adam Selzer, R.L. Stine | Directed by Cody Meirick


Put out by Wild Eye Releasing, Scary Stories peaked my interest because I’m a huge fan of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and horror novels, including those from the 70s, 80s and 90s, and also including those aimed at young readers. Whether it was Scary Stories, Point Horror or other dark tales, there’s something about children’s horror fiction from days gone by that is really nostalgic to me, and some of it is really enjoyable too. The teen classic, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, though (which will soon see an adaptation produced by Guillermo Del Toro), has to be one of the pinnacles and most well-loved of the genre, and this documentary explores it, with interviews and history about the books, about banned books and the controversial nature of it all.

Cody Meirick directs, edits and produces this film, a sure-fire work of passion from him, and it shows in the slick way it’s shot, the well produced interviews (of which there are many) and the well researched and enlightening information we’re blasted with in the 90 minute run-time.
As an author a lot of my history and love for the genre stems from books like Scary Stories, so it was really interesting to hear from other authors who also found influence and inspiration from the books and others like it. We see interviews with the likes of R.L Stine, who I grew up reading with his Point Horror stories, folklore experts, artists and fans, as well as family members of the author of the original work, Alvin Schwartz.

Schwartz himself, who passed away in 1992, is seen in archival footage, and he seemed like an interesting man. We hear people talk about him and the impression he left on their lives with his works of fiction. We also hear about the terrifically haunting and creepy illustrative work that appeared in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark which was drawn by Stephen Gammell. Oh, those images are just so damn good. Much of the documentary focuses on the controversy surrounding the book, and the fact that it was banned due to apparently being “too gruesome” for young readers. We see old news footage and hear opinion on it all, and it’s extremely interesting stuff.

The popularity and cultural significance is delved into deeply, and the sheer love people have for the books all these years shows just how influential a writer Schwartz was, and how brilliant his work was, work that left a lasting impression on so many people. This film really gives a lot of information, most of which I was unaware of prior to watching, and I found it all really fascinating. The creepy black and white folksy animation based on the style of Gammell’s famed illustrative work, in-between the interviews and footage is a nice addition and helps add a creepy element to things, I thought it was effective and looked great. It’s really awesome to see and hear from all the various people who have found influence from the books, and how they’ve taken that influence to carve out their own careers. It shows just how impact the written word can have on the life of the reader.

This was an absolute treat and at a time where the hype for Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is at a high-point, there’s simply no better time to seek it out and watch it. If you’re a fan of the books, then this will definitely captivate you, and if you’re a fan of horror or fiction in general, then just hearing about the history and significance of these macabre tales is gripping stuff. Meirick had weaved an enchanting documentary film here about a true work of brilliance, allowing more people a chance to learn about Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Blood curdlingly stupendous stuff, indeed.

Scary Stories is available on VOD now. The film comes to DVD on July 16th, courtesy of Wild Eye Releasing


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