One of the great things about horror movies is the experience of sitting in a darkened theater and being scared out of your mind alongside a room full of strangers. That’s the goal all horror movies are shooting for and one achieved by this weekend’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. In an exclusive interview with CinemaBlend’s own Eric Eisenberg, producer Guillermo del Toro and director André Øvredal spoke about loving how much the film freaked out test audiences. They said:
André Øvredal: It's been fantastic to watch the test audiences react to like when he eats the... thing. It's like people are yelling and screaming at the theater. It was fantastic.
Guillermo del Toro: It's been a very vocal movie. Some horror movies sort of a scare you into silence, and some horror movies, 'Come on! Don't go in there!' Don't get in there, don't go in there!' This is that kind of movie.
As a horror director, there’s probably nothing more rewarding than seeing audiences viscerally react to the frightening images you’ve put onscreen, and André Øvredal got to have that validation in the test screenings for Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. It sounds like he came close to spoiling a specific scene, but suffice it to say, someone in the film is going to eat something and it completely freaked everyone out.
That test audiences were yelling and screaming in the theater is a heck of a selling point for the movie. It’s also the kind of reaction that you’ll sometimes see in videos of the audience freaking out incorporated into horror trailers. According to Guillermo del Toro, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is that kind of horror movie, where the audience isn’t quietly shrunk down in their seats, but is vocally trying to warn the characters about the fearful terrors that await them.
It’s interesting to hear that the test audiences were so vocal and so freaked out because despite being a horror film, you might not think that Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark would be that scary. It is PG-13 after all and it is based on the collections of short horror stories written for children by Alvin Schwartz.
Yet despite the fact that the film is based on children’s books and is aimed at a younger audience than most horror movies, there were no worries about making Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark too scary, as Guillermo del Toro and André Øvredal explained:
Guillermo del Toro: No [there wasn't any problem making it scary], because it's not gory, and it was not profane. The heart of the movie is such a good heart. The kids are so great and awesome as characters. Don’t you think?
André Øvredal: My goal was just to scare people, so to have a vast canvas like this with such a beautiful story and such great characters, and then be able to put them in peril and be able to just use all my tools as a filmmaker to make it really frightening, it was just a joy.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark was able to be scary and still be geared at younger audiences, and with a PG-13 rating because it wasn’t gory or laced with profanity. Gore and profanity are common in horror films, but they (especially gore) are sometimes used as a crutch, with the gore being the scary thing and not just the icing on true narrative tension.
Therefore, without gore and profanity, André Øvredal was able to really try and make the film as scary as possible. The reason this seemingly worked so well, is that the film has heart and strong characters.
It’s odd to compare it to Stranger Things since the books upon which Scary Stories is based predate that show by decades, but it is the modern touchstone. Like that show, it seems that the horror works in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark because of the audience cares about the kids these things are happening to. You can see Guillermo del Toro and André Øvredal discussing the film with Eric in the video below.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is now playing. Check out our 2019 Release Schedule to keep track of what’s headed to theaters and stay tuned to CinemaBlend for the latest movie news.