If you were a kid in the ‘80s and ‘90s, chances are you were reading Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark one of two ways; by flashlight or with every light on. Followed up with two sequels, these anthologies of horror by Alvin Schwartz burrowed in your mind like a maggot. The award-winning illustrations by Stephen Gammell made sure that even decades later, you can still remember them.
Horror auteur Guillermo Del Toro, celebrated for such works as The Shape of Water, Crimson Peak, and Pan’s Labyrinth, has finally brought the stories to film. The teaser trailer has given us a glimpse of the stories we may get to see, which in the film are contained in a book that comes to life and starts terrorizing a group of kids in a small town. Peep the list of possibilities and hopefuls, and get hyped for its summer release this year!
10 CONFIRMED: THE BIG TOE
Pulled straight from the gotta-read-it-with-the-lights-on pages of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark from 1986 comes The Big Toe. It’s about a young boy who comes across a big toe and decides to eat it with his family for dinner (it’s big even for big toe standards). Why waste good meat?
As is an often used trope in the “stories”, the original owner of said toe comes looking for his missing appendage at night, when the boy and his family are sleeping. He demands to know where his toe is, and if he doesn’t get it well, a toe for a toe.
9 WANT TO SEE: THE BABYSITTER
The loose template for the movie Scream, The Babysitter focuses on a babysitter that keeps getting eerie calls while she’s babysitting two kids. Throughout the night while the parents are out, she gets calls from someone who breathes heavily on the phone then hangs up.
When she finally calls the police, the operator says they’ve traced the source of the calls; the upstairs bedroom. She screams and runs out of the house (without the kids?!) just as the police arrive. When they go upstairs, they find a bloody ax and an open window, curtains fluttering in the night air...
8 CONFIRMED: THE DREAM
No anthology of horror would be complete without a good ghost story. The Dream focuses on a young artist who starts having nightmares in Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones. Each night she’s visited by the Pale Lady, who warns her of the perils of remaining in her house. It’s possessed by an unspeakable evil and she should move before her fate is sealed.
You’d think switching abodes might work, but the artist soon realizes that when she does so, she’s moving into the very room she’s seen in her dream, where the Pale Lady waits.
7 WANT TO SEE: THE BRIDE
The Bride centers around two lovebirds that are recently married. They have a beautiful wedding, and after the reception, they decide to play a rousing game of hide and seek with their friends like they did when they were kids.
The bride picks the best hiding place because her husband apparently can't find her, and eventually gives up thinking she must have had second thoughts about their marriage and left. Years after he's moved from their house, a cleaning lady finds an old trunk, and inside is the rotting corpse of The Bride who had hidden inside and locked herself in.
6 CONFIRMED: THE RED SPOT
Probably one of the most famous stories from all three books, The Red Spot is featured in the third collection of stories and is portrayed on some covers of it with a chilling illustration by Stephen Gammell.
The story focuses on a young girl who develops a red spot on her face and, thinking it’s some form of acne, doesn’t think much of it. The terror begins when she takes a bath, hoping to relax and maybe soak her skin, and the red spot bursts open with dozens of tiny spiders attempting to get out.
5 WANT TO SEE: THE DARE
A young girl’s bravado gets the better of her when she is dared by her friends to spend a night in the town cemetery in The Dare. A witch’s grave is said to be there, and no one is brave enough to go near it.
The girl decides her friends are chicken and goes to the cemetery, prepared to spend the night. She stabs the earth above the grave with a knife, but suddenly something grabs her and tries to pull her down. Her friends discover her lifeless body the next morning, the skirt of her dress pinned by her own knife.
4 CONFIRMED: THE JANGLY MAN
Based on the television teaser we’ve seen so far, the Jangly Man appears as an ominous figure that shows up out of nowhere to strike terror into unsuspecting victims in a shed. As there are lots of lanky, bone-jangling figures that appear in the stories, it’s hard to determine which character he’s supposed to be.
It’s possible he’s a character intended to guide the narrative along as an overarching nemesis. Either way, we’re pretty excited he’s played by long-time Guillermo Del Toro collaborator Doug Jones (The Amphibian Man in The Shape of Water and Pan in Pan’s Labyrinth).
3 WANT TO SEE: THE HOOK
The Hook tells the story of a young couple out for a night on Lover’s Lane. They park their car and try to get in the mood, but the girl keeps hearing a distracting “scratching” sound on the roof. The boy turns on the radio to find some romantic music.
Their station is interrupted by a news broadcast informing locals that a murderer has escaped from the insane asylum brandishing a hook for a right hand. The couple quickly leaves, and the boy takes his girlfriend back to her house. As they exit the vehicle, the girl screams; attached to her door handle is a bloody hook.
2 CONFIRMED: HAROLD
One of the stories is included on the poster for the film itself. There once was a scarecrow named Harold, who was designed by two farmers to frighten crows away from their fields. Unfortunately for Harold, he was made too frightening for even his creators. Despised by them, he’s given nothing but verbal abuse as he silently stands guard over their crops.
But Harold has the last word when he psychologically terrorizes the men who created him, before flaying them alive and leaving their skin pelts to bake out in the sun all day. Not so fun now, is it?
1 WANT TO SEE: THE THING
There weren’t any better friends than Ted Martin and Sam Miller. They did everything together. One night coming home from a day of playing, they passed a field of turnips. Something crawled out of the field and walked towards them. At first they ran, but deciding to be brave, they marched back to find out what it was; a decaying skeleton. They ran screaming all the way home!
Years later, Ted got really sick, and Sam sat up with him every night until he finally passed. When he did, he looked exactly like The Thing that crawled out of the turnip field.