CBS Films and Lionsgate release Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark nationwide on August 9th, 2019.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What do you think is so appealing about dark themes in cinema?
Austin Zajur: I think that they're, at times, more powerful, than hopeful themes because I feel like that nobody really likes to talk about their fears that much. I feel like fear is such a powerful emotion. Being able to dive into the darkness of humanity and the mind are something that people are so afraid of, so I think that they're one of the most powerful forms of art.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What's the purpose of fear in life? What fears have you conquered or are still struggling to conquer as an actor?
AZ: Fear is kind of meant to push us and make us stronger as human beings. Will Smith did a video about how he was terrified to jump out of this airplane and go skydiving. Once he actually did it, he felt phenomenal and great. On the other side of fear is ultimate bliss. I had my own experiences with fear for this movie just because it's my first big lead role and I was just nervous for certain scenes like the one with the pale lady because I've never experienced anything like that as a human being. So, as an actor, I wanted to do it very realistically and bring the most relatable realness to the screen as possible. I was terrified before doing it---if I'd be able to do it, if I wouldn't. But then I just dived in and faced the fear upfront and close. I feel that afterward, I felt that ultimate bliss that Will Smith was talking about. I did it and then felt so great inside.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Juilliard acting coach Moni Yakim believes that acting is a form of dancing with one's heart, mind and soul in unison with one's body? When your character was running through the hospital, Moni would say that what you're doing there is a form of dancing. What do you think?
AZ: I agree. I also compare it to music, in a sense, too. I feel like, as an actor, I've been in a lot of layers of emotions that I normally don't bring out every day and sometimes I don't even know that it's there deep down. So, with something like that, I just try to get to a place in my heart and mind that I've never been to before. It wasn't so much about becoming somebody else; it's mort about finding that truthful place that lives inside of me that sometimes I don't even know it's there, but I bring it out. It's like a flow. I guess that's what Moni means by the dancing. It's like a flow state where you're in rhythm with yourself and life and what's going on in that moment.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How do you define charisma? Can you detect your own charisma?
AZ: I can't detect it like I know when I'm being charismatic or anything, but I have found that when people talk to me afterward and find that they really enjoy me or something, it's when I'm ultimately just not putting any pressure on myself and just completely bringing myself to a situation rather than feeling fear. There's no judgement or feeling like I'm not going to be accepted by somebody. It's having self confidence where my self is enough and just riding that completely. With this movie, I tried to make that a point for myself and I think that that's what charisma is to me.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is not just a horror movie; it's about human beings and their relationships. Each of the characters has their own unique personality. What do you think is the source of that palpable humanism found onscreen?
AZ: I agree with you 100%. One of the most valuable things that I'm thankful for this movie is the cast because it was cast very well. When I met actress Zoe Margaret Colletti and Gabriel Rush and Michael Garzen, I wanted to make our chemistry as real as possible, so we went to an escape room before we started filming. It was just naturally there. We all connected on the level like how our characters were supposed to connect. We all tried to make it a point of not separating ourselves and our relationships offscreen from how they are onscreen. So, I think that that's why it probably felt human because we were all actually becoming best friends who have a lot of chemistry together.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Which do you think is ultimately more powerful and scary: our imagination or the images that we actually see in front of us?
AZ: The imagination because I can go down a spiral or a dark rabbit hole just coming up with certain scenarios and certain things that could happen and thinking about the worse possible thing. For example, if I'm sleeping in my bed at night and I hear a noise creaking and think that I see something, but I don't know if I see it, so my mind is going to constantly create the worst possible scenario instead of being like, "Oh, nothing's there!" So, if I saw something, I would either run out of the room or try to fight something off.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Does pure evil truly exist in life?
AZ: I don't think that anybody is evil; I just think that it's more of a thing with maybe how someone was raised or certain circumstances. Sarah's experiences brought her to that place. I feel that evil people in general are people who are perceived as evil, but they think that they're doing the right thing most of the time. Of course, there could be situations where someone's being selfish and just is taking advantage of someone, but at the end of the day, I feel that people who are perceived as evil people, I just think that they're doing what they think is best. Most people may not see or feel what's inside of their hearts and in their minds, so it's perceived to the masses as evil things, but to them, if we were inside in their head, it might not be like that.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Do you think that Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark would work in 3D?
AZ: I think it could work in 3D. I think it would be cool to make it 4D and have the seats move and stuff. That would be cool.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Between comedy and horror, which do you think is more subjective?
AZ: I'll make the argument that comedy is more subjective because I feel like everyone has a different sense of humor. There are a lot of different types of comedy, so you can offend somebody with a certain type of joke. They are kind of similar because if something's too scary, it's kind of similar to if a joke is too dark or too messed up, but some people, just because everyone has lived different lives, will laugh at that and some people won't. So, they are pretty similar, but I'll still say comedy is more subjective than horror.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What film do you think would pair well with Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark in a double feature?
AZ: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets with the spiders. With the sound scoring, it has the same kind of mythical ride in my opinion. I think that they would pair well together.