Right to the Edge of Your Seat

Scary Stories Review

Scary Stories poster

When I was younger, I was terrified of almost everything. I would have nightmares more often than not and was even frightened of my own toys at times. The My Buddy doll that somewhat resembles Chucky comes to mind. Still, whenever the opportunity to share ghost stories with my brother, sisters, and cousins presented itself, I grew excited and couldn’t wait to hear what we could cook up. In addition, I’d love to have my older sister read various tales from the “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” book series. Almost forty years after their original publication, the books are still a major influence on many, made evident by not only a feature film but also Cody Meirick’s documentary, simply titled Scary Stories.

Scary Stories does a wonderful job of providing the history of the famous children’s book series, as well as taking a deeper look at the people behind its success.

Written by Alvin Schwartz, who was a journalist by trade, the “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” books were the cause of much enjoyment and much controversy.

Like me, many children were encouraged to read the stories on their own or have someone read them to them, but some parents were not so thrilled about the idea of their children reading such dark tales.

Scary Stories contains interviews with one former PTA member of a local elementary school in Seattle who was the catalyst for what would become a pretty major ordeal in the 1990s, attempting to ban the books outright.

In addition to hearing the thoughts of this opposer, Scary Stories contains interviews with various writers, illustrators, artists, and musicians, as well as family members of Alvin Schwartz, including one of his sons, his daughter, his wife, and his grandson.

It is rather interesting to hear from these individuals, especially the ones that grew up with Schwartz as a father. Their relationships weren’t always the greatest, but it is easy to see that their is a lot of love there today, even if it may seem like it’s too little too late.

It is unfortunate to know that Schwartz passed away from illness before he really saw the true impact his stories have had, but I’m sure he would have been very proud of his accomplishments.

Other famous authors of horror-themed children’s books are also interviewed throughout Scary Stories‘ 84 minutes. The likes of Q.L. Pearce, Debbie Dadey, Tracey Dils, Bruce Coville, and even R.L. Stine can be heard praising the hardworking writer, calling him and his works the “golden standard” for horror stories aimed at a younger audience.

To this day, “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” has a huge influence on many artists and creatives from all walks of life. Some remember the stories fondly from their youths, while others are still discovering the tales for the first time.

Scary Stories dives into a new generation of artists who have dedicated most of their lives to paying homage to Alvin Schwartz in one way or another. Photographers, sculptors, and many more talk about the impact these prolific stories have had on them and their careers and where they may have wound up without them.

The stories are all memorable in their own ways, but perhaps even more profound are the beautifully eerie illustrations that accompany them. Drawn by artist Stephen Gammel, the artwork seen throughout the original books are still as effective today as they were forty years ago.

While no true interview footage exists from the aloof Gammel, Scary Stories does contain some excerpts from the one lone interview known to exist, giving at least a little bit of insight to the man behind the art.

Scary Stories at Home

This 2019 documentary is available on DVD from Wild Eye Releasing and is presented in Widescreen format with a stereo audio track and a closed caption subtitle option for the hearing impaired.

There are a few supplemental features including a director’s commentary track and bonus footage, providing even more information and background to an already rich documentary.

The Verdict

Author Alvin Schwartz was a creative man who wanted to preserve the stories he learned through his extensive research of ancient myths and folklore from around the world. He did this by weaving these accounted tales into stories that were friendly enough for children of elementary school age.

Scary Stories is a very well made documentary, providing interesting insight into the private lives of the people behind the famous books and those who they’ve influenced along the way.

Interviews, news footage, and even illustrations that look as though they would fit perfectly inside of the books themselves make this documentary fun to watch and easy to follow.

Whether you were a child in love with being scared by the exciting spooky stories or a disgusted parent trying to ban the books from your local school or library, there is no denying that a lot of passion surrounded “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.”

Pick up a copy of Scary Stories today, as I give it 4.5 angry parents out of 5.

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