Chances are that if you're into the horror genre today, you've probably come across Alvin Schwartz's creepy children's book of short stories called Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. If you loved the 1981 book (as well as its sequels, 1984's More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and 1991's More Tales to Chill Your Bones), you're in for a treat: Guillermo del Toro, one of the biggest auteurs in contemporary horror, has produced a film based on Schwartz's macabre series.
Given that the original source consists of short one-off stories, you might be wondering how the movie will unfold. Fret not (though you probably will anyway): we've gathered a rundown of the most important storylines to know coming into the movie. Just be warned: mild spoilers for Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark lurking below!
The Official Plot
While the movie will bring several individual stories to the big screen, there will be an overarching story. (Think of 1998's Urban Legend, which incorporated memorable legends, but still told a tale of its own.) The film is set in 1968 in the small community of Mill Valley, a town in Pennsylvania. In the long-abandoned mansion of the Bellows family on the outskirts of town, a group of teenagers — Stella, Chuck, Augie, and Ramón — break in while trying to escape from the high school bullies chasing them on Halloween. Legend has it that Sarah Bellows, the ostracized daughter of the family, held terrible secrets and poisoned any child that stepped foot on the family's land. It doesn't take long for the group to stumble across her book in the basement, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The Stories That Will Be Featured
During the Super Bowl earlier this year, there were a total of four TV spot teasers for the film. Fans of the books were pleasantly surprised to see how faithfully the adaptations adhered to the original sources, predominantly Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones. Ahead are brief recaps of each story featured — fair warning that they are pretty disturbing.
- The Big Toe: This is the story that starts the first book, featuring a boy who comes across a toe and eats it for dinner with his family. The toe's owner comes after the boy that night when he's sleeping, demanding to know where his toe is.
- The Dream: In another teaser, we see a character from the third book called the Pale Lady. In the original story, she appears in the reverie of a young artist, urging the dreamer to leave the evil house where she is sleeping. When the artist goes to another abode, she realizes that she's in the same room as the one from her nightmare.
- Harold: The highly disturbing scarecrow known as Harold in the book has been featured in all of the film's promotional materials, so it should be no surprise that his story is included. The original story involves two farmers who work in a remote, rural area, so they decide to make a scarecrow that they frequently take their anger out on to pass the time. As it so happens, Harold doesn't like that, and gets his revenge.
- The Red Spot: Another third book adaptation, this story is about a young girl who gets a spider bite and develops a red spot. When she takes a bath to relax, the warmth from the water causes the spot to burst, and out comes a flood of spiders. You'll never look at a pimple in the same way again.
- The Haunted House: A preacher stays overnight at a haunted house, where he encounters the terrifying, vengeful ghost of a woman who was murdered there. The next morning he finds her bones and tries to make it right by finding her killer. This story is indeed featured in the film, but many liberties are taken to make it fit the Sarah Bellows narrative.
- Me-Tie-Dough-Ty-Walker: Upon watching one particular teaser, many fans initially scratched their heads over a character called the Jangly Man, who looks to be a lanky, creepy humanoid creature. While no characters in the original books go by that name, it was later revealed to be a take on the fourth story in the first book, "Me-Tie-Dough-Ty-Walker," which is based on an American folktale. As the story goes, every night in a haunted house, a bloody head falls down the chimney, and no one has ever worked up the courage to stay there through the morning. When a wealthy man offers a large sum to whoever stays for a whole night, a boy agrees and brings his dog with him. At midnight, he hears a voice call out "Me tie dough-ty walker," and his dog responds in a similarly creepy language. Eventually the head appears and a tragedy occurs.
Think you have the stones to sit through each and every one of those terrifying stories? Then you're in luck: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is now in theaters.