[CFF Review] 'Scare Package' is An Unapologetically Insane, Gory Horror Anthology Made by Fans for Fans
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, and understand that each short only gets so much time to tell a story, so that story had first and foremost better entertain you. Having just played at the Chattanooga Film Festival and debuting on Shudder soon, Scare Package is a film that gets that. And thank god, because we could all use the laugh right now.
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. Seriously, 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, a guy 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. It’s a little clunky and not nearly as effective as Creepshow’s comic or the cassette player in V/H/S, but it gets the job done, and the banter is hilarious, so it doesn’t really matter.
The segments that follow are a torrent of bizarre, blood-splattered, unapologetically insane horror that feels completely unbound and willing to go to any extreme to entertain the audience. Scare Package is the middle finger to anything some Hollywood snob would call “elevated horror”. 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 answer.
I’m not complaining about where we are in horror. The genre is better than ever. But hell, we need good, fun horror that doesn’t take itself too seriously once in a while!
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, that film is referenced quite a bit throughout Scare Package in some cheer-worthy ways. Everyone involved with the film has a clear-cut passion for horror, referencing everything from Aliens to IT to Re-Animator to Hellraiser and (skip to the next paragraph if you don’t like cameo spoilers), 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 which is sure to have all of the drive-in mutants losing their shit. If you don’t know who he is, Google that fucker.
Scare Package is a horror fan’s horror film, made by fans for the fans.
But that doesn’t mean it’s all perfect. 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 but ineffective commentary on male toxicity that needed more bite…and Baron Vaughn’s “So Much To Do,” a unique tale about a ghost possessing a body, who then becomes possessed by the possessed, fits in tone but not in style, as the comedy is pretty hit or miss and not an ounce of blood is spilled.
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. In the style of Chevy Chase when he goes on a rant at the end of Christmas Vacation, you know the only thing I really need to say about Scare Package? This film has all of the throat-slashing, gut-spilling, brain-splitting, head-exploding, torn-off leg-beating, branch through the head, knife through the head, table crushing, wood-chipper grinding, literal death by heartbeat gore that you could ever want in a horror movie, all of it set to a soundtrack by Alex Cuervo that sounds like a Halloween mix at the best damn party you could ever hope to attend. Halle-fucking-lujah! Where’s the Tylenol?
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.
Just be warned: there is a segment with an unnecessarily egregious amount of Game of Thrones spoilers, for those of you that need a time machine to go back a few years to when you should’ve been watching that show.
Scare Package bursts like a bloody balloon onto Shudder June 18th.
By Matt Konopka