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Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark: Teaser Trailer Released For Feature Adaptation

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is coming to the big screen... with a vengeance.

The first teaser trailer for the upcoming flick from director André Øvredal and writer/producer Guillermo del Toro dropped today on CBS Films' YouTube Channel, and it looks freaky as all get-out.

Although it's based on the iconic childrens' horror short story collections from the '80s and early '90s, the film will focus on a singular narrative involving (in a somewhat meta twist) a collection of stories written by a troubled young girl named Sarah Bellows. When it's stumbled upon by a group of teen buddies, they quickly discover that these stories have a terrifying way of crossing over from the realm of fiction into the real world.

The movie is set in the late '60s, and the spot's opening firmly establishes the time period with a shot of an intersection in a sleepy small town, where the kind of cars you've only ever seen in your grandpa's garage wait their turn at the stoplight. As a tinkling, discordant version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" creeps onto the soundtrack, we hear the narration of Sarah herself, as an older woman: "This town has told stories about me. Horrible stories." We see our teen protagonists exploring the dilapidated, spooky old Bellows house, as the narration continues in increasingly sinister fashion, "What they don't realize... is that I have scary stories of my own." Young Stella (Zoe Margaret Colletti) is the one to discover the tome, reading the inscription, "This book belongs to Sarah Bellows," before asking of it, "Tell me a story." It's a request she'll soon wish she had not made.

A few shots specifically engineered to send tingles down our spines follow: a creepy, moonlit cornfield; the even creepier scarecrow standing watch over it; a gathering of townspeople in the dead of night. We then see Stella in the company of a skeptical police officer, who sums up the book's legend. "Sarah Bellows' book. The stories write themselves, and it all comes alive." Stella's narration counters: "You don't read the book. The book reads you." A series of quick cuts show the friends in peril: Ramón (Michael Garza, Wayward Pines) bleeding from the head; Stella barricading herself behind a door; Chuck (Austin Zajur, A Haunting) being dragged under a bed. Then, a shot down a long hallway in some kind of facility, where the lights glow red, and there is... something approaching, something you're only likely to see in a particularly feverish nightmare. 

More quick cuts ramp up the tension, showing us a police car careening down a dark street, a closeup of that horrifying scarecrow, some terrible creature lurching up a set of stairs. "We're next," Chuck is seen telling Stella, repeating himself for emphasis — and then, a jolt of outright body horror. A character named Ruth (Natalie Ganzhorn, The Night Before Halloween) is seen standing in front of a mirror, closely examining some kind of sore on her cheek. It's not just a scrape: there's something in there, and it wants to come out. Finally, there's a title card, followed by one last jump scare involving, we assume, the malevolent spirit of Sarah Bellows herself.

It's all pretty weighty stuff for an adaptation of a childrens' book series — but then again, if you read the Scary Stories collections as a kid and you're trying to tell us they didn't scare your pants off, we're trying to tell you that you're lying. The talent behind the flick certainly has no shortage of horror bonafides: Øvredal is the director behind 2010's excellent Trollhunter and 2016's supremely scary The Autopsy of Jane Doe, and del Toro (who co-wrote the script) is responsible for such sterling examples of atmospheric creepiness as Mimic, The Devil's Backbone, and Pan's Labyrinth. Also contributing to the screenplay are John August (whose vastly underrated 2007 effort The Nines sports one of the more singularly weird premises in all of cinema) and the team of Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton (who co-wrote the last four films in the Saw series).

All in all, it looks like an excellent late summer viewing option if you'd like to ensure that your kids (and possibly yourself) don't get any sleep for about a week. Here's the official synopsis (via Collider): "It's 1968 in America. Change is blowing in the wind... but seemingly far removed from the unrest in the cities is the small town of Mill Valley where for generations, the shadow of the Bellows family has loomed large. It is in their mansion on the edge of town that Sarah, a young girl with horrible secrets, turned her tortured life into a series of scary stories, written in a book that has transcended time — stories that have a way of becoming all too real for a group of teenagers who discover Sarah's terrifying home."

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark hits the big screen on August 9.