Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is unique in that it is an incredibly well-done children’s book designed to effectively ruin the lives of children. Thanks to some genuinely horrifying illustrations by Stephen Gammell, Scary Stories is the kind of book that I — an adult woman with an apartment and a loose understanding of how to use my oven — still hide in the back of my bookshelf, one that still reduces me to panic if I happen to accidentally glance at its cover after 5 p.m.
When news came earlier this year that Guillermo del Toro — the same man who taught me to fear mutated humanoid insects lurking casually about the subway — was going to produce and potentially direct an adaptation of the book, my feelings were mixed, to say the least. Was I going to see it? Of course. Was it going to put me in therapy? Of course.
Today brings news, though, that potentially alters that last portion. According to Variety, CBS Films has hired Dan Hageman and Kevin Hageman to “polish the script,” originally written by John August. Hageman and Hageman are best known for working on the script for The Lego Movie, which could not possibly be further in tone from Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. The Lego Movie, you’ll recall, is utterly delightful and strange, a tongue-in-cheek, sharply witty story full of self-aware pop-culture references. Reading Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, at any age, is akin to watching Saw through Saw 3D without breaks as an impressionable toddler.
Is it possible to turn Scary Stories into a Lego Movie-esque comedy? Maybe, but that’d be betraying its spirit, which, again, is to wreak havoc on the fragile psyches of youths. To me, this hiring means that del Toro’s adaptation is going to be more playful than patently horrifying. Perhaps, along the lines of Crimson Peak — which was more gothic romance than straight-up horror, as del Toro will happily tell you — Scary Stories will be something of a self-aware genre film. As long as Harold’s okay with it. Let’s just not upset Harold.