With its macabre, folklore-inspired tales and terrifying artwork, the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark book trilogy has frightened the hell out of kids for decades. It also frightened plenty of adults into banning it from schools and libraries.
The new Wild Eye Entertainment documentary, Scary Stories, is both a celebration of the books’ cultural impact and a warning about the truly insidious reach of censorship.
We offered you a glimpse behind the scenes when we reported from the film’s Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark pre-screening Q&A. While the upcoming Guillermo del Toro-produced adaptation of the books hopefully brings the scares, Scary Stories seeks to educate, celebrate, and admonish. Cody Meirick’s movie presents more than 40 interviews from family members of Author Alvin Schwartz to fellow children’s horror authors like R.L. Stine of Goosebumps‘ fame. Fans, pop culture historians and artists all come together to share how the books shaped their imaginations and stole their sleep.
But with the series debuting in 1981, it easily fell into the widely-cast net of that era’s “Satanic Panic.” Religious and parental groups routinely targeted and banned the series for its dark subject matter and nightmarish art. The books are listed as being the most challenged series from 1990-1999, and the seventh most challenged series from 2000-2009 by the American Library Association.
The most common complaint: That artwork.
Now, allow me a slight editorial.
I can’t remember many of the books’ stories, but I’ve got most of those insane illustrations etched into my brain with acid. They’re malevolent and primal, and when someone says they’re not affected by them in some way, they’re lying. And lest we forget: In 2011, Harper Collins celebrated the books’ 30th anniversary with new, tamer illustrations. They sucked. Everyone knows they sucked. When someone says they like this revisionist art, they’re lying.
So, yeah, count me among the legions impacted by this amazing series.
Beginning April 26th, Scary Stories gets a limited theatrical run via Wild Eye Releasing. Locales include Los Angeles, New Orleans, Columbus and Texas. The film hits VOD on May 7th with a DVD release planned for July 16th.
Time to get scared again… and get educated.