Our culture tends to build a wall between children and scary stories, but those bricks are laid by adults who think they’re protecting young minds from pain and fear. The truth is, kids adore frightening stories as much as adults, and confronting the shadows is one way to banish them.

One filmmaker who is adept at navigating the dark corridors of childhood is J.A. Bayona, who delivered an unsettling supernatural story of children and parents in 2007’s The Orphanage, then utilized his horror skills to underscore the death and devastation of the Indian Ocean tsunami, exploring the wasteland through the eyes of a young boy (Tom Holland) trying to reunite with his family.

Now we have the new trailer for Bayona’s third film, an adaptation of the children’s novel A Monster Calls, and judging by this preview, the filmmaker has again wired the fight-or-flight fear response directly to the heart.

The book is about a shy boy named Connor whose mother is dying of cancer, and the tree-like monster who uproots himself from the local church cemetery to share stories with him at exactly 12:07 at night.

In the film, the boy is played by Lewis MacDougall and the mother is Rogue One‘s Felicity Jones. Sigourney Weaver co-stars as the boy’s grandmother and Liam Neeson voices the imposing, root-and-branch monster.

The script is by Patrick Ness, who also wrote the novel from an original idea by Siobhan Dowd, who conceived the concept while she was battling cancer, although she didn’t live to write it.

Life throws hard things at a child. Cruel things. Terrifying things. But the right story, even one that makes you hide beneath the covers, can make it a little easier to face the truly frightening things that await us in the daytime.

A Monster Calls is set for release in October.

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A Monster Calls
  • Movie
  • 108 minutes