In my-heart-initially-sings-with-joy-and-then-is-quickly-crushed-with-a-collapsing-blow-of-cynicism-news, Alvin Schwartz’s classic 1981 “children’s book” Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is being turned into a movie. According to Deadline, CBS Films has pounced on a concept from writers Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan, who you may know as the guys behind 2005’s Feast and the later Saw films. Here’s what Deadline has to say about the plot of the film:
[The project] will see Melton and Dunstan adapt some of the Scary short stories into a screenplay about a group of outcast kids who stand up to their fears to save their town when nightmares come to life.
Ok, so…ok. Nothing about this sounds bad – in fact, it’s great that Scary Stories is going to be introduced to a whole new audience through a new medium. If you grew up in the last 30 years, Schwartz’s short but powerful tales are surely an indelible part of your childhood. For many kids, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones were the perfect entry point into the macabre.
But lovers of the trilogy have been burned before by people who chose to mess with something that didn’t need to be messed-with. Not to take anything away from Schwartz’s storytelling, but the most important part of the Scary Stories books was Stephen Gammell’s haunting illustrations – and that is simply inarguable.
And as you may know, THEY REPLACED THEM.
A couple of years ago, Harper Collins did the unthinkable and removed Gammell’s drawings from the books – replacing them with illustrations from Brett Helquist in newer editions. It’s not as if Helquist is a slouch or anything, in fact he’s a great illustrator – responsible for the visual elements of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. But those Gammell illustrations…
Here’s an example of the change:
I mean, it’s just not the same.
During the 90s (and even into the 2000s), the Scary Stories books were among the most challenged books around, with the American Library Association (among others) finding fault with their terror and violence – and especially Gammell’s illustrations.
To put a cap on this aside, I’m just saying that the track record of people screwing with Scary Stories is less than impressive. Here’s to hoping CBS Films, Melton, and Dunstan can hit a home run.