April 23, 2019 Scary Stories (Documentary Review)
“Telling scary stories is something people have done for thousands of years, for most of us like being scared in that way. Since there isn’t any danger, we think it is fun.” – Alvin Schwartz, Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark
One thing that most people can agree on is that the Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark books is one of the most unforgettable series of the ’80s-’90s era. That in mind, in the new Scary Stories Documentary, based on Alvin Schwartz’s iconic 3 book series, Cody Meirick attempts to capture the overall essence of what made these stories, not only fantastic, but also very controversial. Complying over 40 interviews, ranging from family to authors, such as R.L. Stine, Debbie Dadey, Q.L. Pearce, as well as Bruce Coville, to librarians, artists, fans, and folklorists, there is a lot here to support Meirick’s debut film.
Due in select theaters on Friday, April 26th through Wild Eye Releasing and available on VOD May 7th, with a DVD release set for July 16th, the timing of the Documentary’s release is fitting, with André Øvredal’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark feature due out in August.
Looking back briefly, most kids growing up in the ’80s and ’90s knew about the book series written by Alvin Schwartz and illustrated by Stephen Gammell. Adored by some and disliked by others, the illustrations were so creepy that they are completely synonymous with the stories themselves. In fact, these fascinating and creepy stories helped create an outlet for kids. The books were terrifying, fun to read, and were also a history lesson in their own right.
That all said, Schwartz did an amazing job researching the folklore behind these tales and added everything into the sources in the back of the book. Many kids read the sources and were then intrigued to read even more. Although, some of the publicity from the books were not so welcome. Case in point, Kirkland, Washington garnered media attention in a different light when former PTA President Sandy Vrabel worked hard to ban the books from the elementary school, citing that the books were too gruesome for kids aged 5-11.
Which all leads us to the big question, does the Scary Stories Documentary due it all justice? Well, in truth, the Documentary is quite amazing. The artwork, music, and interviews really bring these stories back into the spotlight. Chock-full of interesting content, one of the interviews that really stands out is with Michael Perry. Other notable fans/artist interviews include Photographer Liz Osban and Sculptor Jesse Farrenkopf.
However, some of the more profound interviews come from Schwartz’ wife and his son, Peter. Peter Schwartz gives a candid and honest interview which leaves the viewer with a fresh perspective on how life for the Schwartz family was. It all shows how Alan Schwartz loved folklore. Writing 50 books over a 30-year period, he wrote his Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark series during the last 10 years of his life, and unfortunately wouldn’t live long enough to see the amazing notoriety his books ended up bringing.
Overall, if you want to take trip into spooky nostalgia and re-live some of the best scary stories around, check out the Scary Stories Documentary. Giving a well-rounded image of Alvin Schwartz and his vision for his masterful book series, the Documentary certainly does it all justice and is a must see! Excited for the feature film adaptation, produced by the iconic Guillermo del Torro, Cryptic Rock gives Scary Stories 5 out of 5 stars.