The upcoming Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark movie isn’t just about monsters. Sure, fans of the original books by Alvin Schwartz and Stephen Gammell will recognize many creepy faces, from Harold the scarecrow to the Pale Lady. But while those stories were originally distinct, the film adaptation ties them together via a frame narrative set in 1968, when a group of teenagers discover a very haunted book.
“It starts with this dynamic between my character, Stella, and her two best friends that she’s always going around town with, riding bikes and wreaking havoc: Chuck [Austin Zajur] and Auggie [Gabriel Rush],” star Zoe Colletti tells EW ahead of the film’s master class presentation at San Diego Comic-Con this weekend. “Then a little bit in, without giving away too much, we stumble across this boy, Ramon [Michael Garza], who is just moving through town, and we pick him up in our gang. That ends up being the dynamic you see throughout the movie: me, Chuck, Auggie, this character Ramon we befriend, and we also throw into the mix Chuck’s sister, Ruth [Natalie Ganzhorn], who gets into a bit of trouble.”
(Anyone who’s seen the preview clips teasing an adaptation of the infamous story “The Red Spot” should have an idea of exactly what kind of trouble Ruth is in for.)
Last year marked the 50th anniversary of 1968, an extremely impactful year for the United States that featured an escalation of the Vietnam War, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, and the election of President Richard M. Nixon, to name just a few of the events that have shaped this country ever since. Choosing that year was no accident. Ramon, for instance, ends up in Stella’s friend group because he’s fleeing the Vietnam draft. That sociopolitical context is what attracted producer Guillermo del Toro to the setting.
“It’s a coming-of-age story set in a crucial point in American history,” del Toro says. “This is the end of childhood for the kids, and a wakening time for the United States. The movie is not in any means a political statement, but the movie has that background that makes it really interesting and really compelling. I think people are expecting the scares and the creatures and fun, but I think they’ll find the characters are memorable.”
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark hits theaters Aug. 9.