A Newbie’s Guide to ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’ from Director Andre Ovredal

There are people who have been waiting for a Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark movie since 1981. That’s when Alvin Schwartz’s first book was published. There are also lots of people for whom this summer’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark movie will be their first scary story to tell in the dark. 

Austin Zajur in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
Austin Zajur in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark | George Kraychyk /CBS Films and Lionsgate.

Guillermo del Toro wrote and produced Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. He hired Andre Ovredal to direct and introduced Ovredal to reporters at an early preview. Ovredal offered his own Cheat Sheet for newbies to the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark world so here are his tips to help you brush up before the film is in theaters August 9.

You don’t have to read the books; Andre Ovredal didn’t

Del Toro read all three of Schwartz’s books and even bought additional copies to give to friends. Ovredal came to Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark fresh and only had del Toro’s script to go on.

“I didn’t know about these books when I got the screenplay,” Ovredal said. “I’d never heard of them because in Norway they were never released. I fell in love with the screenplay that you and Kevin and Dan [Hageman] had created.

“It was such a wonderful challenge as well as a director to make a movie that lives up to the expectations of both obviously you and also the entire community of people who grew up with these books. It was such a wonderful, wonderful story.” 

‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’ is like Steven Spielberg’s ‘80s movies in the ‘60s

Steven Spielberg’s production company Amblin produced some of the classic ‘80s movies like Gremlins, Young Sherlock Holmes and The Goonies. These were movies that were fun for the whole family, but a little edgy and scary for kids. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark pays homage to those films but also goes back to the 1960s.

Andre Ovredal and Guillermo del Toro
Andre Ovredal (L) and Guillermo del Toro | Joshua Blanchard/Getty Images for CBS Films

“[The film is] just this kind of Amblinesque scary movie except in a period that was so exciting,” Ovredal said. “It was a unique opportunity to create both a fascinating image of America in the ‘60s as well as a really wonderful story about these characters you’ll get to see a little bit of on-screen, with amazing monsters and based on a property and book series that was so beloved in Northern America especially.”

‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’ is actually only one story

The Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books have multiple short stories, and some of those short stories are represented in the film. However, this is not a collection of short films. All of the characters are in the whole film and deal with every story that comes to life.

“This is not an anthology movie,” Ovredal explained. “It is a cohesive two-hour feature with one story where everything is weaved together to be part of that story.”

There’s a ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’ character for everyone

With an ensemble of characters as large as Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, there’s bound to be a character anyone in the audience can relate to. They could relate to bookish Stella (Zoe Colletti), beauty and drama queen Ruth (Natalie Ganzhorn) or skeptic Auggie (Gabriel Rush).

“All these actors brought amazing things to these characters and these scenes by themselves,” Ovredal said. “That’s the way I love to work. That’s why I chose these actors in the first place because they bring so much to each scene.

“So even though we discuss stuff and we talk about stuff and we enhance moments on set, they brought so much personal stuff, so many surprises and they and they would come up with different things from scene to scene, from take to take. It’s always a balance.”

Michael Garza
Michael Garza on the mic | Joshua Blanchard/Getty Images for CBS Films

Even adults in the audience are bound to remember issues from 1968 that come back to life in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.

“Since this is happening in 1968, Ramon (Michael Garza) is actually a draft dodger,” Ovredal said. “It’s really trying to weave in the 1968 elements from this time period.”