SCARY STORIES is a documentary directed by Cody Meirick that explores the meaning and impact of Alvin Schwarz’s bone chilling children’s book series, Scary Stories. Using abandoned crumbling buildings and cemeteries as a backdrop for interviews and coupling this imagery with softly playing menacing music, we are lulled into a slight sense of heightened awareness reminiscent of the slow creeping chills one would feel as a child when indulging in the books.
SCARY STORIES is Just Like I Remember!
Interviews with Alvin Schwartz’s family members reveal he was a passionate man who chased his dreams and spread his love for old folktales through his stories. His wife, Barbara Schwartz, explains that her husband had a background in journalism and a passion for research. According to his family, he would spend countless hours in a library researching the roots of these fearsome classics. His meticulous research not only helped him translate these folktales into stories that children could enjoy, but he also included information about the origin of the folktale allowing children to learn about the cultures that these stories came from.
The stories were only half of the reason these books were so popular. The pictures that accompanied the stories became just as infamous. Fans interviewed describe which creepy illustrations scared them most as children. The unnerving illustrations of monsters created by Stephen Gammell could spark a feeling of tingly dread before the reader started the story. Often these otherworldly monsters would stare directly at the reader as if ready to leap out of the page.
The documentary cleverly uses Stephen Gammell’s style animation to evoke the Scary Stories universe during interviews. Through the documentary we are immersed in the world that the books created as we learn about the legacy of Alvin Schwartz and the controversy his books inspired.
We see interviews and old clips of school board meetings showing the fervor expressed by the opponents and supporters when they argued about banning these books. Many parents were afraid their children were too young to deal with the frightening tales and the creepy and sometimes gruesome illustrations. Though as some interviewees argue, the stories served as a coping mechanism, allowing children to explore their morbid curiosities, and give names to their fears.
As it is pointed out, whether a person is on the side of banning the book or keeping it, books have a long lasting effect on people and can shape the adult the child will become. No matter the case, as we see in the documentary many children loved these books and express that love through their art as adults. Love for these childhood horror stories inspired artists, illustrators, songwriters, and photographers.
For more information about the Scary Stories documentary and where you can watch it check out The Scary Stories Documentary website.
Directed by Cody Meirick
Producer Cody Meirick
Associate Producer Donna Davies
Cinematography by David Leroy Thomas, Kevin Tobin, and Brenton Oechsle
Animation Shane Hunt
Audio Engineer Matthew Cooley
Editor/Colorist Robert Chapman
Original Score E.K. Wimmer
All photos courtesy of Giant Thumb Studios.
About the Author
Colleen Smith graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville with a BS in Reclamation, Environment, and Conservation. She has since moved to Hawaii and pursued a career as an environmental scientist with AECOM. Colleen maintains an active role in her company's sustainability committee and participates in beach cleanups and restoration events around Hawaii.