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Thursday, April 18, 2019

Review: Scary Stories

Director: Cody Meirick
Year: 2019

Synopsis: Scary Stories is a documentary about children's horror classic Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. It includes the author's family, scholars, folklorists, artists, and children's book authors such as R.L. Stine, Q.L. Pearce, and more.

“Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark” is one of the most controversial books in the United States in the past three decades. Composed of three books published between 1981-1991, this work from the authorship of Alvin Schwartz and illustrated by Stephen Gammell has generated a number of supporters and detractor, but what is sure that it does not leave indifferent anyone that reads it.

“Scary Stories” is a documentary based on the controversy that continues to be around these books. This controversy is born from the fact that these books are meant for an audience of kids between 5 and 11 years, but plenty of people consider they are not appropriate for these ages. On the other hand, a lot of people advocate for the folklore value of the books, as well as for encouraging reading, creativity and curiosity, valuable qualities for children education.

This documentary focuses on several groups of people: the family of the author, folklore and education scholars, artists inspired by these books, and people who oppose these books having a space in elementary school libraries. In this way, all sides of the controversy are shown, and more importantly, it shows the influence that these books have had. Also, the topic of the book and the controversy around them are well explained for those that do not know Schwartz's work.

The documentary cares about respecting and paying tribute to the work of Schwartz and Gammell. The director Meirick in his first full-length work recreates the gothic and mysterious tone of the books and uses animations, acting and images from newspapers and news about real events to aid in delivering the message of the interviewed and to put into context the inspiration and the controversy that these books have generated. Meirick makes a good balance of interviews and interesting visuals, the later mainly derived from works inspired in the illustrations of the books. It also emphasizes on the dedication of the author in researching folklore and legends from every place in the world and the value of this information, which is added in every book.

“Scary Stories” is an entertaining and well-structured documentary about the polemical literary work of Alvin Schwartz. Just a few months before the release of the movie “Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark”, which will be directed by Guillermo del Toro, this documentary makes the viewer interested in the books and their stories, some that we will see in the movie by del Toro. This documentary accomplishes its purpose of interesting the viewer in the work of Schwartz and Gammell and ends up giving the impression that these books inspire much more the curiosity and creativity of kids than any harm they could do by showing violent and gruesome scenarios.

"Scary Stories" will be released on video-on-demand platforms on May 7th.

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