There’s plenty to get excited about at San Diego Comic-Con. Huge panels, massive reveals, and those caped crusaders that we all love so much. But whilst most of the convention-goers were queuing up to get into Marvel’s Hall H panel, a small audience squeezed into the Horton Grand Theatre for a once in a lifetime experience, and IGN was lucky enough to be there.The intimate panel was a creature feature like no other as monster maverick Guillermo del Toro and director Andrè Øvredal were joined by their core special effects team Mike Elizalde (Hellboy), Mike Hill (The Shape of Water), and Norman Cabrera (Hellboy) to reveal the secrets and creatures behind Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.

The Influences

If you’ve seen the trailer for the adaptation of the classic Stephen Gamell and Alvin Schwartz books then it won’t come as a surprise that the film will lean in heavily to an Amblin-tone. Both directors are huge fans of the ’80s family movie tone and Øvredal shared the importance that Amblin had for him as a young viewer and how Scary Stories connected to them. “I grew up with the movies of Amblin–Back to the Future and all these films–and when I read the scripts I saw an opportunity to create a horror movie that was in that space which I’d never really seen.” Of course, the film is based on the famous short story collections that terrified us as kids but one thing that Del Toro made clear was that the film was always going to have a singular narrative and was never going to be an anthology movie. “Those films are always as bad as their worst story!” Del Toro laughed.

The Setting

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is a period piece and that was something that was vital for del Toro, who wanted the children to be living in a time before the constant barrage of information that we currently exist within. “The less resources they have, the better. They cannot Google anything, they cannot use a cell phone. Beyond that, the importance of the period is that the stories traveled slower and deeper than now. Everybody here, we process 100 or 1000 times more information than anyone in the history of humanity. It’s crazy, you stop for two minutes on a corner and you pull yourself and you’re on social media of some kind. And every hit, believe it or not, is emotional. But we cannot process it. So sometimes we see a cat playing the piano, and then a massacre in South Africa and an explosion in Europe. And we process them on the same speed. And I couldn’t deal with the kids in this movie being in that moment, because then it would be wrong,” Del Toro explained.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark Images

Harold

The first of the big behind the scenes featurettes that we got to see was the making of Harold. The horrifying scarecrow has long haunted the dreams of young kids everywhere and this new practical monstrosity will likely continue that legacy. Like all of the creatures in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Harold is predominantly practical and the video showed the creation of the bodysuit as well as spooky latex mask that brings the monster to life.

There’s clearly a whole bunch of insane craft that went into creating the creepy creature and the fact that creative team were fans was a huge motivating factor in crafting monsters that looked so similar to the illustrations from the books, as Norman Cabrera explained. “We’re massive fans of Scary Stories, so we all pick up those books and we’re so inspired by the artwork. One of the first things was to stay true to the real art. We literally took our sculpt and the artwork and… you know how in Photoshop you can kind of take two pictures and blend them together? We were literally overlaying them, so that the lines would match up. We’d send them to Andre and Guillermo and be like, ‘Move that line over a little bit over here, move that.’ It was so important to us.”

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Big Toe

The next monster that we got a look at the creation of was the gruesome creature from the iconic “Big Toe” story about a young boy who eats the toe of a corpse who then decides that they want their toe back. The clip showed the full body and face cast which was created for horror icon Javier Boutet, the man behind the wrinkled mask of this particular nightmare. The grizzled corpse is truly a horror to behold and we also got a look at some acting tests of Boutet trying out jerky, jarring movements for the monster. For Cabrera and co. it was a total blast. “What we did is we created this multiple piece appliance makeup. Norman was leading the charge on the character and the design. And, you know, I’m looking at this and it was so much fun to do. Honestly, this has got to be one of the funnest makeup movies in recent memory.”

The Pale Lady

Another of the iconic illustrations that has been brought to life in startling fashion is the horrifying vision from “The Dream” known as The Pale Lady, the misshapen form of the large and terrifyingly benign woman was one of the hardest monsters to craft, as Del Toro shared. “This is so hard to sculpt because you’re sculpting an expression that is benign. It’s almost funny and cute, but she’s completely evil. And the sequence is magnificently scary.”

Another thing that the beloved director was quick to point out was how the creative team had taken special care to bring a nuance and tone to the monsters that leaned into the books. “Well, one thing that you may notice is that we wanted to make the movie very vivid and colorful. So the past was not saturation and all that. But Gammell’s drawings are in black and white. So If you look carefully, both Harold and all the characters are colored in almost sepia and are really are very pale, like they could be printed on a yellow piece of paper, with the skins almost bleached.”

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Jangly Man

The final monster was the one that got the largest reaction from the crowd and for good reason. The only new monster to make it into Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, the Jangly Man is an amalgamation of three other stories from the cult book series: “Mi Tie Dough-ty Walker,” “What Do You Come For?,” and “Aaron Kelly’s Bones.” The in-depth behind the scenes clip showcased some seriously spooky practical effects including a horrifying suit with a twisted spin, a broken ribcage, and scarred skin.

The real draw here, though, is the actor who brings the Jangly Man to life, Troy James, a talented contortionist whose incredible gymnastics make the movements of the monster so powerful and downright scary. The unusual talents of James made the creation of his costume a huge challenge. “[In the case of Troy] you’ve gotta cast him in a position that is normally not conducive for sculpture, if you guys are sculptors, you know that a lot of people over-sculpt the musculature. Or the worst mistake anyone can do is make an angry monster, because then that is the only emotion you’re going to have. For us, if we sculpt the musculature when he’s upside down then it is not going to work when he’s standing up, so that was a huge challenge,” Del Toro told the wrapt crowd.

The panel ended with a new trailer which focused on the horrifying Jangly Man and will be released online soon!



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