Before Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark hits theaters this weekend, I had the chance to sit down with producer Guillermo del Toro and director André Øvredal to talk about the movie. We talked about everything from working with raw child actors to changing some of the stories, but I definitely wanted to make sure I brought up one of del Toro’s (and, as it turns out, Øvredal’s) favorite subjects: practical effects. From the start, the pair wanted to use as little green screen and CGI as possible, choosing instead to utilize practical visuals wherever possible.
Del Toro explained that it was for a number of reasons. For starters, practical effects feel more tangible in ways that mostly CG movies don’t. There are certain real-world details that CG technology hasn’t quite managed to capture yet, like the way light reflects or proportions. Del Toro pointed out that it’s the imperfections of human performance that makes is so real, something that CGI can’t do:
“I value the craft of makeup effects, but beyond that, I think the monsters are more scary. We use 85-90% physical, and then we add little details that are digital: the hair or little microexpressions. With Jangly Man we added the hands in different directions, blah blah blah. But for the most part, the creature is there. And the actors have something to react to and the light is hitting a real surface, and it’s much more real than CG. You cannot blend the little accidents of a hand sliding on the bars of a jail, or, you know, a turn that is not complete. These are beautiful things.”
With a horror movie, making it as real as possible is vital. If a monster meant to be flesh and blood seems incorporeal, as if you could poke a stick right through it, the terror and dread it inspires is lacking; you know it’s a fake monster being created digitally. But practical effects, with real humans under prosthetics, make the monsters seem more there. And more there means more real means more able to get you.
To that end, del Toro and Øvredal knew exactly who they had in mind for the Jangly Man, a brand-new character introduced for the movie: actor Troy James. (“I worked with Troy first in The Strain,” del Toro reminded me.)
As the Jangly Man, James twists and contorts his body into all sorts of unnerving configurations, limb-folding and joint-popping in ways no human should be able to. The result is a character sure to be the first boogeyman thrill of more than one kid who sees Scary Stories.
“He does things that – and he knows it – he uses his body for dramatic storytelling,” explained del Toro. “He’ll go, ‘Look, let me try this.’ It’s more than human.”
You can watch the full interview below:
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is in theaters this weekend.