Scare Package, 2019.
Directed by Courtney Andujar, Hilary Andujar, Anthony Cousins, Emily Hagins, Aaron B. Koontz, Chris McInroy, Noah Segan, and Baron Vaughn.
Starring Jeremy King, Noah Segan, Toni Trucks, Chase Williamson, Baron Vaughn, Zoe Graham, Byron Brown, Chelsey Grant, Luxy Banner, Josephine McAdam, Aaron D. Alexander, Allan McLeod, Jocelyn DeBoer, Melanie Minichino, Jonathan Fernandez, and Dustin Rhodes.
Chad, the owner of Rad Chad’s Horror Emporium, recounts a series of bone-chilling, blood-splattered tales to illustrate the rules of the horror genre to his newest employee.
Horror movie anthologies are a bit like pizza; it’s hard to get them totally wrong, because even when they’re not very good, they tend to give you at least a few tasty toppings and a decent splash of the red stuff. Muddled analogy aside, Shudder’s new horror short collection Scare Package offers up seven self-aware genre joints from rising directors, resulting in a pacy if slightly uneven compendium of blood, guts, and laughs.
The movie’s wraparound story, “Rad Chad’s Horror Emporium,” takes place in the titular character’s (Jeremy King) VHS rental store, where he’s busy training new employee Hawn (Hawn Tran) and fending off obsessive, pestering horror buff Sam (Byron Brown). Between their amusingly relatable banter, full of genre references and goofy quips as it is, one of the three characters typically stumbles across a VHS playing one of the film’s stories, and that’s the basic structure.
But things first kick off with “Cold Open” from Emily Hagins (Coin Heist), which follows background horror movie character Mike (Jon Michael Simpson) as he tries his damnedest to become a more prominent presence. His attempts to insinuate himself into a bigger role inevitably backfire in ways both hilarious and grisly, shades of Tucker & Dale vs. Evil while references to Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street also abound.
Second, we have “One Time in the Woods” from Chris McInroy (Hellarious), an astoundingly goopy riff on the typical “camping in the woods” horror movie setup. Without spoiling the conceit, the gore effects are as howlingly funny as they are completely revolting, making this mere seven-minute short a spectacular splatter orgy complete with outrageous one-liners.
Next, Rian Johnson’s old pal Noah Segan co-writes, directs, and stars in “M.I.S.T.E.R,” which begins as a pointed parody of Fight Club before suddenly changing lanes into a satirical take on a certain classic horror subgenre. Segan riffs sardonically on the toils of toxic masculinity through a simple but effective metaphor, even if the late-stage action is a tad rough, and the elliptical ending is a bit of a shoulder shrug. It’s neat to see him venturing out into pastures like this though, for sure.
Fourth is “Girls’ Night Out of Body” from duo Courtney and Hillary Andujar, self-labelled as a “post-modern feminist slasher revenge body-horror” film, focused on four young women who find themselves preyed upon by a Michael Myers-esque stalker, only to turn the tables on him in a uniquely demented way. This thing is gorgeously neon-soaked – it’s little surprise the Andujars are Hollywood production designers – with some imaginative practical effects, yet while it inverts slasher tropes in a cute way, it’s really more style than substance.
Short number five is “The Night He Came Back Again! Part IV: The Final Kill” from Anthony Cousins, which nobody will be surprised to learn is a thinly-veiled parody of the Friday the 13th franchise. Cousins rattles through the Jason tropes with a relentless efficiency, and though the digital effects here are absolutely wretched, the focus is thankfully placed more on practical gore and some knowing performances from the cast. Best of all, it ends with a genuinely laugh-out-loud final twist.
Sixth, we have “So Much to Do” from Baron Vaughn (Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return), which collides The Fog with Get Out in a mildly amusing indictment of spoilerphobia. It’s a little messy ideas-wise, but the entertaining lead performance from Toni Trucks truly carries it past the finish line.
The less said about the final short, “Horror Hypothesis,” the better, given that even stating most of the films it invokes is probably too much of a spoiler. That said, there’s a sure Cabin in the Woods-esque vibe to this closing segment from Aaron B. Koontz – who also directed the wraparound – which is by far the longest and most narrative-driven of all seven stories. It’s perhaps a touch too long at almost 30 minutes, but makes the effort to dig deeper into its likeable cast of characters, and there’s a killer recurring Game of Thrones gag.
All in all, Scare Package rums the gamut from mediocre to very good, with no stories that quite gravitate either to greatness or awfulness. To that end, it’s easy to see how this anthology would be perfect screening material for the five-beers-deep midnight movie crowd.
It’s certainly witty in fits, and there are heaps of Easter eggs for eagle-eyed genre fans to salivate over, even if it lacks the conceptual cleverness to be a truly great example of the horror anthology. But with the shorts barely clocking in at 10 minutes a-piece, they largely end before they can even begin to invite ennui, and ultimately the sum of these parts proves more entertaining than any individual volume.
On the production side it’s acceptable enough, especially with regard to the delicious gore effects, though most of the shorts have that garish, over-lit sitcom quality to them which isn’t particularly pleasant to look at. On the aural side, however, Alex Cuervo’s synth-laden musical score accentuates the ’80s vibe terrifically well.
Though as inconsistent as any horror anthology, Scare Package impresses with its lashings of (mostly practical) gore and giddily off-the-wall sense of humour.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Shaun Munro – Follow me on Twitter for more film rambling.