In a move that melds a child’s first experience reading ghost stories under the covers with a slightly older child’s first time seeing a man cut off his foot with a rusty blade, “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” is getting the adaptation treatment from Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan, the writers of several entries in the Saw franchise.
The classic Alvin Schwartz book, first published in 1981, is a collection of spooky tales from folklore and urban legends that you’re probably most familiar with in their butchered form after hearing them told at sleepovers by breathless 11 year-olds behind flashlights. Think campfire stories like “The Hook,” where a guy and a gal are making out on Lover’s Lane, only to hear on the radio that a deranged murderer with a hook hand has escaped from the insane asylum. When they drive home, the boyfriend finds a bloody hook hanging from the passenger side door…he had been watching and waiting to kill them the whole time.
The popular book (which has obviously been banned at some points by parents who are clearly just scared of the Hook Man) spawned two sequels, all featuring the macabre and intricate illustrations of Stephen Gammell. Because really, if reading about horrifying beasts and axe murderers wasn’t enough to make little ones sleep with the lights on, graphic in-detail drawings of those monsters that are definitely coming to murder them truly seals the deal.
Dunstan and Melton’s script focuses on a neighborhood full of kids who band together when their nightmares start coming to life. At the same time, they’ll be keeping the anthology-style employed by the book (as well as the stories featured in the book) to showcase the monsters come to life. Now, the two are no strangers to the horror genre — particularly the exploitative, gross-out division. They’re responsible for bringing us Saw IV-VII and Piranha 3D. It doesn’t seem from first glance that whatever they churn out for Scary Stories will be geared toward children, unless you’ve got yourself a kid that enjoys themselves a good bloodbath.
But what they could create is a dark, disturbing (and yes, probably extremely gory) PG-13 horror flick that pays homage to the kid-friendly stories from which they derived their material, and the films they’ve honed their skills crafting. Of course, at this point the artistic direction of the film isn’t known, but if they could take their patented shock and gore and combine it with monsters and ghouls shaped in the same style as Gammell’s iconic illustrations — they might have something on their hands. Nostalgia from a classic book series, chills from well-known urban legends, and what might be a fresh twist that could give those predictable scares true horror.
We all know what happens when that victorian lady slowly unravels the green ribbon off her neck at the end of the day — but aren’t you ready for the modern retelling that sees it spraying buckets of blood around the room?