You know what the key thing is that some horror anthologies forget to include? FUN...
...Some segments can be scary. Some can feel like they came out of the mind of a coked-up clown from Hell. But the best horror anthologies are the ones that are just trying to have a good time. Scare Package, now available on Blu-ray from RLJE Films and Shudder, is a film that gets that.
Produced by Cameron Burns and Aaron B. Koontz (who also directs the wrap-around segment, “Rad Chad’s Horror Emporium” and the closing story, “Horror Hypothesis”), Scare Package is a balls-to-the-wall horror anthology flick featuring eight of the most fun horror shorts I’ve seen collected in a film in a long time. You’d have to be dead to not enjoy this one at least a little bit.
The film opens on the appropriately titled “Cold Open” directed by the extremely talented Emily Hagins (she directed her first feature, Pathogen, when she was 11. What have you been up to lately?). In the segment, Mike Myers (Jon Michael Simpson) is sick of playing the “side character”, and seeks to play more of a part in the real-life horror movies going on around him, with bloody consequences. It’s an unabashedly meta, hilarious, shockingly gory way to set the stage for the explosion of silliness to come.
We then meet our wraparound characters, video store owner Chad (Jeremy King), new employee Hawn (Hawn Tran), and creepy customer who desperately wants Hawn’s job, Sam (Byron Brown). These three are huge horror film geeks—Hawn gets the job after Chad asks him which is the better sequel, Troll 2 or Halloween III, to which Hawn replies neither are canon and aren’t technically sequels, but Halloween III is great (hell yes it is, Hawn)—and it’s through them that we’re introduced to most of the segments which play out in Scare Package, whether through stories of films they’ve watched, or tapes which Hawn is inspecting.
The segments that follow are a torrent of bizarre, blood-splattered, insane horror that feels completely unbound and willing to go to any extreme to entertain the audience. Koontz even mentions on the commentary that with each segment, they indeed told the filmmakers to push everything as far as they could. For anyone that needs a break from the sometimes serious, depressing, political or all of the above horror that we often get these days, Scare Package is the film for you.
Scare Package is what we need to break up all of the gloominess. It’s what some horror fans are craving and missing right now. Segments like “One Time in the Woods”, directed by Chris McInroy, in which campers encounter a stuck-in-mid-transformation puddle of bones and flesh with an attitude the likes of Deadpool, or director Anthony Cousins’ “The Night He Came Back Again! Part IV: The Final Kill”, where a Final Girl and friends trap a killer and try various ways to kill him, are unique, blood-soaked stories that had my guts feeling like they were about to burst over-the-top Evil Dead style, I was laughing so hard.
You probably caught that that second title is basically a riff on Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter, and you’re right. In fact, Scare Package is full of cheer-worthy references. Everyone involved with the film has a clear-cut passion for horror, referencing everything from Aliens to IT to Re-Animator to Hellraiser and even The Last Drive-In host and the legend who helped shape many a horror fan with TNT’s Monstervision, Joe Bob Briggs, shows up in epic fashion for a scene. Bless RLJE Films and Shudder for including The Last Drive-In episode where Joe Bob and Darcy the Mail Girl played Scare Package, one of the better episodes of the latest season. And for those wanting more Joe Bob? The best part of the blooper reel included on the disc shows us a somewhat extended Joe Bob (spoiler) death scene!
Scare Package is a horror fan’s horror film, made by fans for the fans.
But that doesn’t mean it’s all perfect. In the countless times I’ve seen the film since the first experience, some segments still don’t quite work for me. Courtney and Hillary Andujar’s “Girls Night Out of Body” is a cleverly titled but lacking piece in which three women discover sometimes you are what you eat…Noah Segan’s “M.I.S.T.E.R.”, in which a man joins a “male support” group, is an appreciated commentary on male toxicity that needed more bite…and Baron Vaughn’s “So Much To Do,” a tale about a ghost possessing a body, who then becomes possessed by the possessed, fits in tone, but the comedy is pretty hit or miss.
Still, each and every tale in Scare Package is unique and twisty as a swirly straw, just begging you to slurp up these never serious, always fun shorts and give you a sugar-rush of the sweet horror your brain needs to get through another miserable day of real-world BS.
It doesn’t always work, but Koontz and Burns deserve a hell of a lot of credit for gathering so many different filmmakers together for an anthology as seamless and smooth as Jason Voorhees’ (almost) bald head. And for those segments that don’t work, Koontz and Burns unleash so much love and adoration for every segment during the commentary, that even the ones you may not like the first time will rest warmer in your heart after. As Koontz mentions repeatedly, a mantra on set was “horror with heart”, and even the least effective of the segments are full of passion for the genre.
I would say the disc is worth owning alone simply for having that The Last Drive-In episode, but for those that wanted more of Scare Package, this is a must-own for fans because it includes an unused segment entitled “Locker Room Z”, in which a phone-obsessed woman finds herself dodging zombies in a locker room as she tries to get ready for the night. It doesn’t totally work and is one of those where I can see why it was left on the chopping block, but tonally it fits right in with the rest and is still a fun watch. We’re also gifted more Jeremy King as Chad with a fake promo for Rad Chad’s Emporium, which had me dreaming of better days when the video store was still the cool hangout spot.
More important than anything is the commentary with Koontz and Burns though, in which the filmmakers discuss each and every segment in detail, what the filmmakers were thinking, why they made the decisions they did, etc. It’s a wealth of information including nuggets such as the fact that one segment was almost a musical, and comes from two guys who are clearly good friends and live horror. Few things are as great as making films with friends, and commentary tracks are at their best when they include friends like Koontz and Burns bouncing off one another.
“Reward the folks who are willing to watch it again,” says Koontz on the commentary, and Scare Package does exactly that. This is a film that just gets better and better with every watch.
Scare Package is now available on Blu-ray/DVD from RLJE films and Shudder. Check out the full list of special features below.
Bonus features on the DVD include:
Bonus features on the Blu-ray include all of the above, as well as:
By Matt Konopka