Guillermo Del Toro and Andre Øvredal aim to keep practical effects alive with their new film collaboration, Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark. Adapted from the Alvin Schwartz horror anthology series, the duo wanted to keep the spirit of the books alive by focusing intently on character development for every character including the ghoulish figures from Schwartz book, and using the art of Stephen Gemmell as inspiration.
”The Pale Woman, the Jangly Man, and the Scarecrow are flush with grey and black tones as a nod to their look in the books,” says Andre Øvredal.
A detail I wasn’t quite expecting but with new the footage of the film I saw, these creatures are true to form.
The selected stories are tied together within a story that takes place in the 1960s among a group of teens who have to face their fears to save their lives. It’s going to be interesting to see how Øvredal and Del Toro piece this together, But hopefully this will be as scary as the books are.
I had the opportunity to sit down with both directors (in this case Del Toro is the film’s producer), to talk about what scares them, and why practical over CGI effects are essential in cinema.
HN: Are there any scary stories from your native countries of Norway and Mexico that creeped you out growing up?
ANDRE ØVREDAL: In Norway, the stories are very nature-driven, and in nature, there is a lot of fear of the unknown. That is why I gravitate toward films where the entire feeling of fear comes from the darkness and things you can’t see.
GUILLERMO DEL TORO: In Mexico, we call them “nanny stories.” At night I would ask my grandmother to tell me a story so I would sit on the foot of the bed and listen to some of the most terrifying stories I’ve ever heard. There is a lot of childhood folklore in my films from the Devil’s Backbone, The Shape of Water and Pan’s Labyrinth.
HN: Out of the first book anthology in the Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark books, is there any story that’s one of your favorites that didn’t make it into the film?
ØVREDAL: High Beams, which is a creepy story about a backseat killer, is one that we had in the can for a long time until we had to do away with it. Also, Guillermo and I both love the vampire story The Window.
HN: Any specific challenges that made filming or production difficult for you both?
ØVREDAL: There are practical film making issues, and then there are like overarching things like creative, but also taking these creatures from a 2-D drawing, to a colorful living, breathing creature is a huge thing. I was just so lucky to have Guillermo the modern master of monsters to guide me through that.
DEL TORO: The challenge is also to keep motion in the forefront–not just make it snazzy and beautiful and but to make it character-driven. To do that requires a talented director and Andre knows how to keep that creature emotion front and center. When you see these monsters, what are going to feel? Are we going to laugh or cry? Are we going to be afraid of them or with them? Those instincts are a gift from a talented director.
HN: I’m sure the look and feel of these monsters have to do with their creation and practical, or CGI effects can make or break that emotion. Guillermo can you talk about the preservation of practical effects and whether you think it’s a dying art.
DEL TORO: I don’t think it’s dying art so much as it is a niche pursuit. I don’t think it’ll ever die. The Greeks would put masks on to enhance their characters on stage, and now, we the inheritors of the mask core theater tradition. I think we have is to allow that physical execution to exist and be appreciated. Artists are so good at their craft that at times audiences may think it’s digital effects when it isn’t. Either way, I am committed to keeping this niche pursuit alive.
HN: Why do you think audiences, like to be scared and have a deep passion for the horror genre?
ØVREDAL: I think it’s great to be scared. It’s a basic human emotion that you don’t usually access or want to access because being terrified isn’t always fun. However, watching a film, you can at least be scared within your comfort level, whether at home, or the theater or among friends.
DEL TORO: I think as a species, the moment we became sedentary, and we lit a campfire, and told stories that terrified us. There has always been a need to know what lives in the darkness, and horror films allow people to investigate the things that lurk in the shadows. It creates balance, as we need to explore the light side and the dark side of the world as happiness and terror equally useful.
HN: Do you hope that with the success of Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark, we might see stories from book two and three manifest in a sequel?
DEL TORO: We would love that. The material is there. Alvin Shwartz collected many stories as an anthropologist, and translated that into stories everyone can consume–and there are many, more stories to be told.
ØVREDAL: Guillermo and I had a fantastic experience. There are so many wonderful stories we didn’t get to film, but thankfully there is an endless amount of content to access.
We’d like to thank Guillermo, Andre, and CBS Films for the interview. Be sure to watch Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark when it hit theaters August 9th.