To be honest, I was too old for Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series of books, but I was well aware of their existence thanks in no small part to the eye catching, nightmare enduing artwork contained within the tomes (courtesy of Stephen Gammell), but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t into a devious doc detailing the series creation and what it has meant to generations of fright fans n’ horror hounds!
First thing you have to realize is that Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark was the most banned book of the 1990’s…and if that doesn’t give that shit unlimited horror biz street cred, I have no idea what would! Of course, that tumultuous moment is detailed in Cody Meirick’s documentary, but there is so much more ground that is covered!
We get the genesis of the series creation (featuring interviews with Schwartz’s widow among other peers and family members) that paint a vivid picture of just how such grim material came to be, but also of the tortured (his estranged son is featured in conversation) life the man lead.
On the subject of the books banning we get to see both sides of the coin, as a particularly petulant spokeswoman for the PTA attempts to keep the terror tomes out of creepy kid’s hands decades ago…and the valiant librarian that said “Fuck that noise!” (paraphrased) and battled to have the yarns stay snug as a beastly bug on the sinister shelves of arcane academies!
Also getting the love is Gammell’s artwork as we are treated to homages in the form of tattoos, models, and even live action recreations of the man’s wicked work over the film’s hour and twenty-five minute runtime (and the actual lurid illos are featured as well ‘natch).
Speaking of Gammell; this is where Scary Stories falls short, as the still among the living artist is not interviewed for the production. I have heard tale that the dude is reclusive, but I would have loved to hear him speak his mind on the subject at hand.
If you are a fan of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark; this well-made doc should be a must see…but to be honest, neophytes to the series ((or those curious as to what the new Del Toro produced major motion picture adaptation of the series is all about) will be presented with an engaging and enlightening viewing experience as well!