The Canadian actor plays a skeptical police chief in Del Toro’s latest, but admits that unlike his character, he’s just as scared as we are.
Zoe Margaret Colletti, Michael Garza, Gabriel Rush, Gil Bellows
August 9, 2019
It may be hard to tell from the terrifying trailer, but Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is based on a series of children’s books.
In the film, directed by André Øverdal and produced by master of creepy creatures Guillermo del Toro, a group of teens finds an old book in a deserted house. As they read its tales about various horrible beings — including murderous Harold the Scarecrow, the corpse-like Toe Monster, and the tall, fleshy Jangly Man — those stories become reality.
The teens could use some help from Police Chief Turner, played by Vancouver native Gil Bellows, but it’s the late 1960s and straight-shooting Turner’s not easily swayed by scary stories, or kids.
Bellows, who shot to fame as Billy on TV’s Ally McBeal, lives in L.A. but was visiting family in Vancouver when we spoke by phone.
The trailer is really scary. Is this a kids’ movie?
Well, I think it's a young person's movie. I definitely think it harks back to the movies of the eighties, films like Goonies and Explorers and Poltergeist that sort of have one foot firmly planted in that teen, pre-teen experience. And then, at the same time, I think they're very accessible to older demographics as well. It's got more scares, like a Poltergeist movie, but I think that there are tropes that are very connected to Goonies.
The movie was shot in Southwestern Ontario. Where did you film your scenes?
I shot primarily in and around Toronto. We shot at a school on the outskirts of Toronto…and then fantastic locations that evoked the period that are surrounded by all the modern architecture that is sweeping through Toronto.
Related: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark composer Anna Drubich explains how she made the film even scarier.
Who is Police Chief Turner?
I think he's a person who is sort of a step behind the times in a way. I think he's good at his job and is probably a pretty respected person within his community, but I don't think he's particularly enlightened in terms of looking at people from the point of view of being open to other cultures or experiences without seeing them as being threatening in some way.
How does he interact with the kids?
He's clearly the voice of authority and I think in that time period, the voice of authority isn't very empathetic to hearing why the kids are doing what they're doing, and what their concerns are. He's just more interested in them stopping and heeding to his word.
What was your scariest moment on set?
When you saw the actual Jangly Man doing what he was doing, it was definitely upsetting and scary and highly unusual. It was kind of a perfect realization of that touch that Guillermo has in terms of making characters feel incredibly unique and, at the same time, resonate with some aspect of your imagination in a way that maybe you could never articulate…. The Jangly Man is the personification of scary monster.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark will truly creep you out.
No one knows how to get under your skin the way that Guillermo Del Toro does. The depiction of these horrifying creatures will not just keep you up at night — you’ll be thinking about them all day too.