City Base Entertainment will host a private screening and art show Thursday to celebrate the release of the film Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, director André Øvredal’s adaptation of the popular children’s book series by the same name. 

The venue’s events coordinator Sergio Guerra, who has worked in special effects and makeup for nearly 20 years, said that he knew he wanted to do something different for the release of this movie. 

“Those books had such a big impact on me growing up,” he said. He even went as far as to indicate that the children’s horror stories, and especially their accompanying illustrations, helped sow the seeds of an obsession with the genre that would eventually lead him into his special effects and makeup career.

The original book series includes Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (1981), More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (1984), and Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones (1991).  The macabre folktale reworkings by author Alvin Schwartz and the intricate, often jarring, illustrations by Stephen Gammell captured imaginations and became cult classics.

“The artwork especially, as a kid, just popped out at you,” Guerra said. “I remember I had friends that were scared of the drawings in the books, which of course made me like it even more. The books have always been an inspiration to me.”

As far as the movie, Guerra said that he’s excited to check it out, but joked that he isn’t yet sure if it is any good. “I guess we will all love it or hate it together,” he laughed.

In any case, Guerra thought it would be great for people who had grown up with the books to get a chance to interact with more than just the movie’s content.

The event will feature about 10 artists sharing and selling their horror-themed work and a horror makeup booth. Local writer Jessica J. Herrera will also read from her new work, an illustrated book for kids called San Antonio Urban Legends. She recalls the strong impression the Scary Stories series had on her younger self.

“Compared to something like Goosebumps, Scary Stories was just something more significant, it had more depth,” she said. “I always appreciated that it seemed to take children a little bit more seriously.”

For participating artist Steve Garza, the books were a forbidden fruit.

“My older sisters and cousins would read them during get-togethers,” he said. “They didn’t let me read them because they felt I was too young.”

“When I did get to read them, though, I always loved them – especially the artwork.”

Participating artist Alberto Ramirez remembers his kids being into the books when they were younger.

“I remember looking through the books and, as a horror fan, being happy that my kids had good taste,” he said.

Whether the movie lives up to the reputation of the books remains to be seen, but for the many San Antonians who grew up with Scary Stories, this event offers the opportunity to revisit these strange and dark gems.

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James Courtney

James Courtney is a freelance arts and culture journalist in San Antonio. He also is a poet, a high school English teacher and debate coach, and a proud girl dad.