By now, if you pay attention to such things, you’ll know that our weird, beloved Uncle Guillermo is working on the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark movie. Maybe directing, maybe not – we’ll see – but still…. YES.
Here are 6 reasons why Guillermo del Toro and Scary Stories are perfect for each other.
1. He gets art. The Stephen Gammell illustrations (that is, the original art [see the cover for this post, off to the right there or at the top, for example] – not the otherwise excellent art from Brett Helquist) are as much a part of the Scary Stories experience as the stories themselves. If anyone understands that and would find a way to incorporate those disturbing visuals it’s GdT. I mean, have you seen his house?! All 13 inside dimensions are covered in art and artifacts from horror everything. (Google “Guillermo del Toro’s house” and be jealous.) This is a guy who loves comics and was drawing from a very early age. This is a guy who keeps a sketchbook for his ideas. (In fact, you can buy a collection of his sketches.) His film ideas usually develop from a few sketched images, according to him in this short interview. At least one reason those illustrations were changed was that the originals were thought (by many patronizing adults) to be too disturbing for kids. (The books have been in the top ten banned books for kids for 2 decades.) This concern will not ping GdT’s radar, because…
2. …He is not afraid to be genuinely scary and disgusting. He treats all us kids like adults: he is not gonna namby-pamby the scare out of Scary Stories. Consider that he’s been connected to projects as disparate as Lovecraft and Disney’s Haunted Mansion. He’s a kid at heart, who just happens to like things that scare the shit out of you – LIKE MOST KIDS DO. Adults are so patronizing: get out of our faces already.
3. He actually writes books. Guillermo del Toro is himself a writer of books, so that gives him a better appreciation of and facility for the art of moving between page and screen. The TV show The Strain is from a series of novels he wrote with Chuck Hogan. Trollhunters is a YA novel he wrote with Daniel Kraus (that is also headed to Netflix — It’s raining Guillermo!)
4. From a New Yorker piece by Daniel Zalewski, this:
“One of his first toys, which he still owns, was a plush werewolf which he sewed together with the help of a great-aunt. In a tape recording made when he was five, he can be heard requesting a Christmas present of a mandrake root, for the purpose of black magic…. He raised a gothic menagerie: hundreds of snakes, a crow and white rats that he sometimes snuggled with in bed. Del Toro has kept a family photograph of him and his sister, Susanna, both under ten and forced into polyester finery. Guillermo, then broomstick-thin, has added to his ensemble plastic vampire fangs, and his chin is goateed with fake blood. Susanna’s neck has a dreadful gash, courtesy of makeup applied by her brother.”
Them’s roots. Right about the time other kids would have been reading Scary Stories, had they existed when he was a child, he would have been making his own scary stories.
5. He is a 100% legit comicbook-geek/scifi-fanboy/horror-nerd just like you and me. He aspired to be a horror film maker; it wasn’t an accident of “guess this is my niche – oh well, it’s a living.” From this fan site, peruse his list of faves. He lists comic book artists and writers. Faves include Back to the Future, Dr. Who, Harryhausen, Disney, LOTR, Bradbury, Wells, not only The Simpsons but also Futurama, etc.. When you watch Guillermo del Toro on a panel or interview at something like Comic Con, he looks perfectly at ease – I don’t mean slick or smooth but like a fish in water. Some big shots at conventions are obviously contractually obligated to be there, and they project it, like they don’t wanna touch anything, they’re wearing surgical gloves, they’re looking at us thru the bars of our Nerd Zoo cage – well, eff y’all. Guillermo is one of Us. But not only is he Full Metal Dork, he is also…
6. …profoundly well-versed in the classics. Go back and take another look at that faves list; it is deep. Some folks who want to work in a genre only know that genre. Not so with GdT. The man is an absolute scholar of the great film, literature and art, or damn close to it. Listen to this interview about Hitchcock on Q. He barely pauses when answering questions. He’s got silver halide crystals in his bloodstream. Why is this important for Scary Stories? Because these were not arbitrary little kiddie stories made up by Alvin Schwartz. He did tons of research into the great folktales and scary legends of the world. Scary Stories are modern interpretations of folk classics.
If we are going to entrust our beloved childhood nightmares to anyone, I would think someone with both the deep, nutrient-sucking roots of the classics and the shiny, fresh green leaves of pop culture would be a pretty good choice. He’s got the love of art, books, film, the roots, and all the cred. We’re behind you, G.