"The most dangerous time is your childhood," says Oscar-winning movie director Guillermo del Toro at a presentation of his new movie Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. He's not joking. In a clip, we've just watched thousands of spiders have burst out of a pimple on a girl's cheek.
"It's a golden time? Not for me man. I was like in Shawshank, I was in a Jesuit school and it was like a prison, I had to fight in the yard and this and that. A lot of movies simplify kids and make them cute, like skateboarding dudes that say one-liners, and never get killed. In my movie's kids do die. They are more frail but at the same time more complex and they see the darkness, and that extends to this movie."
Thanks to the 1980s story collection by Alvin Schwartz, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is already embedded deep in the psyche of a lot of children in North America, and after getting a glimpse of the movie adaptation produced by horror master Del Toro and directed by the talented André Øvredal, I can confirm it's about to freak out a whole new generation of kids and adults. Speaking about children and horror, Del Toro referenced his own childhood and the work of Stephen King - specifically Stand By Me - and explained why it was important to share the genre with the young.
"I think that the tragedy of horror is to not have your parents talk to you about it," he said. "It's great for kids to see these stories and share them with their parents. When you're a kid you're curious about two things, sex and death. The rest you can figure out in a manual. Both are infinite mysteries when you're young, and a lot of parents shy away from those two things."
Despite its terrifying trailer, the movie has a PG-13 rating. There are monsters - created with physical effects rather than CGI for added authenticity - but there's no blood or gratuitous violence. The fear comes from something more subtle, the same creeping dread and fear that kept you from calling out in a dark bedroom after a nightmare or made you avoid that dark patch of woods near your school.
"We live in the real world. When we live in a great world where everything is great, then we can avoid things. But I think we live in a real world and knowing the darkness is part of the structure of knowing the light, and I would you can share this with your kids if you talk about it after. It's something to bond over," he explained.
"The only thing you experience as a kid is that the world is constantly telling you about everything great. In shampoo commercials, in yogurt commercials, in car commercials, in movies where people look like nobody you know. Horror movies tell you there is a dark side, don't worry, and you may find a little solace in that fact. And I think that's very important."
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark will be released in theaters on August 9.
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