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Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark: 5 movies where books come alive


The summer is slowly coming to a close and some of the big blockbusters have come and gone. But don’t let that deter you from making a trip to Cineworld during August as there are some real treats to be found – including the eagerly anticipated new horror film Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark.

Directed by Andre Ovredal (Troll Hunter) and produced by Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water), the film sees a group of teenagers discover a book of scary stories that have a knack of coming to life in the real world. A group of skin-crawling horrors are then unleashed, including Harold the Scarecrow and the Jangly Man...

To celebrate the release of the movie on 23rd August, here are five others where a book has a big part to play in the narrative, even to the extent where they come alive…

1. The NeverEnding Story (1984)

Before the 4th of July this year, you may have gone your whole life not knowing anything about 1984’s cult sci-fi/fantasy classic The NeverEnding Story. That was until the final episode of Netflix’s Stranger Things, and the now classic sing-a-long between Dustin (Gaten Materazzo) and his long-distance science camp girlfriend Suzie (Gabriella Pizzolo), which singlehandedly reignited interest in the film's title track.

A box office disappointment when it was first released, the film tells the story of Bastian (Barret Oliver), a young boy who finds a book called 'The NeverEnding Story' and sneaks into the school attic to avoid school bullies. As he reads, he discovers that the fantasy land in the story – Fantasia – is in desperate need of a human child to fend off the impending doom of The Nothing.

That child? Bastian himself.

Directed by Wolfgang Petersen (later of Air Force One and Troy fame), many eighties films of the same ilk, it has gained a big following in the decades since its release.

2. The Princess Bride (1987)

"My name is Inigo Montaya. You killed my father. Prepare to die." Those immortal words come from Spanish fencing master played brilliantly by Homeland star Mandy Patinkin in Rob Reiner’s evergreen classic. It's a film that continues to thrive, even being inducted into the National Film Registry for its cultural significance.

Similar to The NeverEnding Story, the film was not a huge box-office success on its original release in the autumn of 1987, but its legacy has grown exponentially over the decades and it's now a fully-fledged classic.

A 'frame story' if ever there was one, The Princess Bride is the book that Grandad (Peter Falk) is reading to his grandson (Fred Savage) while he is sick in bed. It tells the story of Westley (Cary Elwes), a farmhand who sets off to rescue Princess Buttercup (Robin Wright) – his true love – from the dastardly Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon).

Action, romance, comedy, swashbuckling, The Princess Bride really is "as real as the feelings you feel".

3. Back to the Future Part II (1989)

OK, OK, this one is a little bit of a stretch on our part but think about it: without that darn book at the centre of it, the world of BTTF2 doesn't exist.

After the original Back to the Future became 1985's biggest film – grossing $381m across the world – a sequel was inevitable but it would take director Robert Zemeckis and co-writer Bob Gale four years to realise it.

They had a plan: parts II and III would overlap so they would make them back-to-back, which in those days was hugely ambitious, but somehow they pulled it off. Part II takes Marty (Michael J. Fox) and Doc (Christopher Lloyd) to 2015 to save Marty’s son from jail but on their trip, Marty spots an old Sports Almanac. He then buys it hoping to use the manual to bet on sporting events when they return to 1985.

Before he can do so, Biff (Thomas J. Wilson) steals the book and uses it for his advantage, causing a timeline fracture that sees Doc and Marty return to an alternative 1985 reality.

4. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

Based on J.R.R. Tolkien's revered book series, The Lord of the Rings trilogy singlehandedly redefined the potential of fantasy cinema, grossing almost $3 billion worldwide and winning 16 Academy Awards (with final instalment The Return of the King scoring a record-breaking 11 Oscars).

It was a herculean task undertaken by director Peter Jackson and his actors, writers, filmmakers and collaborators but somehow, after 274 days of filming, they pulled off a miraculous feat.

The Return of the King focuses on hobbit Frodo (Elijah Wood) and his loyal friend Sam (Sean Astin) as they journey into Mordor to destroy the One Ring once and for all. The movie concludes on a thoughtful and self-referential note with Frodo chronicling his story – 'The Lord of the Rings' – in the same book as his uncle Bilbo's (Ian Holm) 'There and Back Again'.

5. Stranger Than Fiction (2006)

Stranger Than Fiction is something of a rarity: a Will Ferrell film that sees him restrained to the point of being an introvert.

Far removed from Ron Burgundy or Buddy the Elf, Ferrell plays an IRS agent named Harold Crick whose plain, average existence gets a huge shock to the system. The reason: he begins to hear a voice that is seemingly narrating his life as it unfolds, as though he is a character in a novel – and, what’s more, the voice reveals that Harold is soon going to die.

Frantic and perplexed, Harold deciphers that the voice is that of writers-blocked author Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson), a respected writer who hasn’t produced any new work for years. Dealing with subjects such as death, love, life (and wristwatches), this one is a real treat.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is released on 23rd August. Unlimited member? Book your tickets for the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark preview screening on 20th August.

Don't forget that we want to hear from you – what are your favourite movies where books come to life? Let us know @Cineworld.

Scott J. Davis is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.