[Interview] Producer/Director Aaron B. Koontz Says There Could Be a 'Scare Package' 2 if Fans Let Shudder Know They Want More
If you haven't seen it yet, let me tell you that Scare Package may be one of the most fun horror anthologies...ever?....
...Having debuted on Shudder's The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs this past Friday, fans got to witness one of my personal favorite horror films of the year, and one of the most entertaining horror anthologies to release in years. I'm talking of course about Scare Package, a balls-to-the-wall, wildly bloody and insane horror anthology that sets out to do nothing more than have fun and entertain viewers, and it goes above and beyond achieving that goal.
I had the pleasure of sitting down to chat with producer Aaron B. Koontz, who also directed two of the segments in the film. We talked horror anthologies, the state of Hollywood horror, working with a certain horror icon, the possibility of a sequel, and more.
Read the full interview below.
[WARNING: MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD]
Killer Horror Critic: I think both of us could probably agree that it’s difficult to get horror anthologies right. What do you think makes a good horror anthology, and what was it about Scare Package that drew you to the project and sort of fit that mold?
Aaron B. Koontz: Yeah, I mean I did not want to make an anthology at all. At all. I was like, why are we doing this? We’re just opening ourselves up for problems. They’re either too much of a mixed bag, or they’re not cohesive, or they’re amazing, and they have a huge budget. We can’t compete with that. So, I was like how are we going to make this happen? How do we find the right through line to make this work? Being as OCD as I am, I created a spreadsheet and watched all of these.
My writing partner Cameron (Cameron Burns) was always saying hey, let’s work…we wanted to work with our friends and do something that’s fun. And I realized that and was like well, I don’t know, for all the aforementioned reasons. But then after sitting down and watching them all, I realized that I loved the horror comedies. I was like you know what, I’ve never seen an all horror comedy anthology. I’ve seen every anthology, but I’ve never seen one that was cohesively all horror comedy. I’ve seen some that leaned into it a little bit more than others, but none that had fully embraced it like that. So, the first concept was tropes.
That was the original title of the movie was ‘Tropes’. I was like look, each segment is a different horror trope. That’s a hook. That’s interesting. And then the other thing that kind of bothered me in some was that the wraparound didn’t matter, it wasn’t anything that you were excited about, or sometimes you just wanted to skip over. Like, I just want to watch the next segment. That’s disconnected horror shorts that you just happened to watch in ninety minutes then if that’s the case. That’s not what I want. That’s not an anthology. An anthology to me has a story that you’re following and it has sub stories that you go into and that’s what I wanted to do. So, one of the rules that we had was, you never left the core story, that there was one cohesive movie that you could still watch. So, if you never left ‘Rad Chad’s Horror Emporium’, which goes into ‘Horror Hypothesis’, the finale that we wrote and that I directed, if you never leave that …that’s just one individual story itself that you could watch and hopefully have fun with. And then when you divert from that story, you’re telling other unique aspects of horror in a different way.
And then also, we had some other tricks of the trade that we had learned from some of our friends who had made anthologies. We had the same colorist…we had technical specifications for each director. We had the same sound designer, the same composer, just so even though they were different, there were ways to feel a little more that they were in the same world, and that was very important to us to make happen.
KHC: I hadn’t actually thought about that, but now that I’m thinking about it, there really hasn’t been a horror anthology before Scare Package that leans completely into horror comedy. The closest would probably be Creepshow, but I wouldn’t necessarily call all of those segments horror comedies, they’re just fun.
Do you have a favorite horror anthology?
AK: Of the modern ones, I’m quite obsessed with V/H/S 2 and Southbound. The way Southbound was so cohesive definitely influenced this. So, we used the same colorist, composer, sound designer and pushed the same technical specs and requirements to make it feel within that same world. As for the classic ones, it’s Creepshow and Creepshow 2. Those were just the most fun and that’s what we wanted. Fun. I’m also quite partial to Tales from The Crypt and the cool twist endings they always had.
KHC: Can’t go wrong with the Cryptkeeper!
You sort of touched on this, but the importance of making each segment feel as if it’s in the same world cannot be stressed enough, and I personally love that with Rad Chad’s Horror Emporium, you gave us what at first seems like a somewhat typical wraparound at a video store that then leads into something completely unexpected.
In order to keep all of the segments feeling similar, was there sort of a motto that you had for each filmmaker, and were these all friends of yours? Is that how the group came together?
"I was like you know what, I’ve never seen an all horror comedy anthology. I’ve seen every anthology, but I’ve never seen one that was cohesively all horror comedy. I’ve seen some that leaned into it a little bit more than others, but none that had fully embraced it like that. So, the first concept was tropes."
AK: All of those folks were friends, or maybe friends of friends, that we wanted to work with, who we admired. But yeah it really was with a group of friends. Chris McInroy, Noah Segan and Emily Hagins are all close friends that we wanted to work with and make something work, so we started there. And then Noah suggested Baron (Baron Vaughn), and then Baron and I had a quick call and I learned how much he loved horror, so I was like okay you’re in, there’s something really cool here. Plus, the fact that he’s on Mystery Science Theater, I knew there were opportunities and I was like this is the kind of voice we can really get behind and have fun with.
One of the mantras was “horror with heart”. It needed to be fun. Don’t be afraid to be meta, but as you’re telling these stories and maybe poking fun at horror, it can’t be punching down. I always hate when it’s like B-movie, and elevated genre, and those types of terms, because there’s wonderful things about horror if you’re willing to embrace those.
I was the kid who used to argue with friends about who would win between Michael Myers and Jason and Freddy and all that, and I have lists of my favorite Voorhees kills. These are the things that I love, and by the way, it’s the sleeping bag kill, we all know it’s the sleeping bag kill in ‘New Blood’, in my opinion.
KHC: I would go with the face smash in Jason X, but they’re all great.
AK: It’s pretty great. That’s pretty great. That’s top five.
So, this was the world that we came from and it was like, let’s find a way to embrace this. We had a very difficult time making our first feature film and it was frustrating. We just wanted to get together and say look, let’s just make this low budget, let’s do it with our friends, lets raise the money ourselves, we don’t answer to anyone and its our little love letter to horror but it’s from people who truly love horror.
I get frustrated when I watch other horror things and I can tell you’re not a horror fan. I can tell, you know?
KHC: They’re out there for sure.
AK: Yeah, you know, that bugs me. So that was important to us.
KHC: In response to my review the other day, you had mentioned that you enjoyed the line about the film being a middle finger to the phrase elevated horror. You were also a producer on Starry Eyes, which is one big commentary on the industry. Is there anything you think "Hollywood" gets wrong about horror these days that you wanted to make sure Scare Package delivered on?
AK: Yeah, I think Hollywood still looks at horror as B-Cinema and that’s so damn frustrating. Just because there were a ton of derivative slashers in the 80’s doesn’t make The Thing or Jaws B-movies, does it? Every genre has their highs and lows. So, the idea that you could throw an entire one under the bus like that is too macro thinking while somehow being narrow minded.
KHC: You said that the original title of the film was Tropes, so was that sort of the theme going in then? Let’s take each story and focus on a well-known horror trope, and flip it on its head? Because that was one thing that I personally loved about each segment, was that you could not predict where any of these were going, since each sort of says, “I know you think you know where this is going, but screw you, that’s not what we’re doing”.
AK: That was very deliberate. Yeah, we had a list of horror tropes we wanted to really tackle. We gave those to our friends and said what excites you? Then pitch us an idea based on these tropes. And as people took one, we would cross it off the list. We were kind of showrunners with them, so we pulled together all of our resources, like okay, here’s how to make these, here’s how to do it. We produced them with them. We would bring one of our producers on set. We gave notes on the script, helped develop it, but allowed these wildly talented writer/directors to show their own special filmmaking abilities and their own sensibilities and lean into those. But still kind of showrun it in a way so that it fits into this bigger narrative and story that I was telling with the wrap and the finale.
So yeah, it was a little bit of a juggling act at times. We had wonderful segments that we couldn’t do, but in the end, it was take one of these tropes, find a way to poke fun at them, but come from a place of love. And then look, there’s so many varying ways of doing comedy, and we didn’t want them all to be completely meta, all to be completely slapstick, and then the other thing was lean into practical effects. We showrun that. That was another thing where we personally were like, how are you doing your effects? Oh, you know what, we can make those bigger for you, because we have a lot of connections with that. We take pride in that, and that was a big one to lean into.
KHC: Oh definitely, and I love that you say all of that, because it shows. I especially love that you mention that you’re trying to sort of poke fun at these, but not punch down, because that was the big issue with a lot of horror comedies after Scream came out, is that they all wanted to be meta, but instead they were making fun of it rather than having love for the genre.
AK: Yes, completely. Because they thought they could make money off it. ‘Scream’ made money so they thought they could do it, and it just reeks of inauthenticity.
KHC: Right exactly, there’s no passion behind it, and I would argue there is a ton of passion that is so obvious on the screen with Scare Package.
AK: Thank you.
*Photo provided by Aaron B. Koontz*
"We just wanted to get together and say look, let’s just make this low budget, let’s do it with our friends, lets raise the money ourselves, we don’t answer to anyone and its our little love letter to horror but it’s from people who truly love horror."
KHC: Everyone always asks what was the best day or the most problematic day on set, but I want our readers to get an idea of just how fun and gory this film is, so what was the bloodiest day on set for you, and what was it like shooting that?
AK: Our bloodiest day was just setting up the aftermath in the hallways and alike for 'Horror Hypothesis'. We had blood canons and Max (Maxwell Nalevansky) my Production Designer (Along with Ashley Land and Morgan McCoy) were just spraying the walls with throwing shit around. The amount of times I would just yell “more blood” became a joke. You couldn’t even walk down the hallways without slipping so we had to take extra safety precautions.
KHC: I can imagine!
Speaking of the finale, being a huge Monstervision fan, I grew up watching Joe Bob Briggs, who essentially helped raise me as a horror fan, so I’m curious, how did Briggs come on board for the film, and was he always your intended horror icon that you wanted to get for that role?
AK: This was prior to the Shudder thing happening, prior to all of that. I was just a Joe Bob fan. In fact, I sent the script to people, horror fans, and they were like yeah, nobody knows who Joe Bob is anymore. And I was like that’s okay. Even if they don’t, the people that do are going to get it. I mean even Ryan Turek (producer of ‘Halloween’ 2018), called the movie inside baseball for horror, you know? And I get that, because its meant to be the bigger the horror fan you are, the more you’re going to see. There’s so many things that if you pause and look, Easter eggs, like little winks being like, we got you. You’re in safe hands.
We wanted a character that was kind of like Jamie Kennedy’s character in ‘Scream’. I knew the finale was going to be this testing facility, and I was like well, if it’s a testing facility, and they’re trying to learn the rules of horror, they would consult a horror expert to work there, so who would be the horror expert? There’s one. It’s Joe Bob Briggs, in my mind. I will say, we thought about Elvira too, but growing up, like as you said a ‘Monstervision’ fan…I wasn’t allowed to watch horror films. So, I had to go on TV and record ‘Monstervision’, and that was my way to watch a lot of horror movies. My parents wouldn’t let me do it, I had to sneak around. That was a big part of this.
He (Joe Bob) followed me on Twitter one day, and again, prior to his resurgence. This was before all that stuff happened. And I said look, you acted in ‘Casino’, you did it for Marty, will you do it for me? Kind of joking with him, and he laughed and was like this sounds great. We sent him the script, and he came and had fun with us. I get to kill Joe Bob Briggs on screen, how amazing is that?
KHC: Not many people get to say that. That’s pretty awesome.
AK: Yeah! And he improvised lines. I mean I will say, the amount of times he says “back to the movie”, and he never goes back to the movie, the same thing happens on a film set.
KHC: Oh really?
AK: He’s like, “well back to this,” and I’m like Joe Bob, we gotta go man, we gotta shoot. We gotta get back to one, and uh, if you don’t mind, we can talk a little later…
KHC: So, he’s a bit of a rambler on set too, huh?
AK: Oh yeah, but in a great way. His line in the film about calling Chad Brad instead of Chad and how he’s part of what the internet did to film criticism, that’s all Joe Bob.
KHC: That’s amazing. Speaking of Chad (Jeremy King), he has the line about Halloween III being great. We all know Joe Bob kind of hates Halloween III. Did you ever get to talk to him about that?
AK: No, we didn’t get to. When we did that, I didn’t know for certain that Joe Bob was officially in. There was still some back and forth there. But we were still going to pay homage to it. So that’s just how I feel. That’s what I think about ‘Halloween III’. I love it.
KHC: Hell yeah, man. Halloween III rules. Every time Joe Bob mentions it, I’m like come on man…
AK: Yeah. It’s just not canon. Just think of it as not canon, as a standalone film, and I think that really settles those problems.
Any plans for a Scare Package part 2?
AK: If enough people ask about it, then Shudder will green-light it. So, if folks can tweet at Shudder for a sequel there is a real possibility.
KHC: You had a film set up through Cinestate and Fangoria, The Pale Door. With all of the controversy surrounding Cinestate, is The Pale Door still on track for release?
AK: ‘The Pale Door’ is still happening. Look, there are things going on in the background with that. The only thing I will say is that Fangoria did not produce that movie. That was made completely independently and they came onto the project in post-production. We’re in negotiations and the movie is still coming out in August, but there will probably be some changes made prior to that.
KHC: I’m sorry you’re having to go through that. And it’s good to hear that it’s still coming out, because a lot of us, including myself, are pretty excited about a story revolving around outlaws vs witches.
AK: It’s very, very different from ‘Scare Package’, but we like that. We like that it’s very different. I’m very excited for folks to see that.
KHC: All right, well thank you so much for talking to me about Scare Package Aaron, can’t wait for it to drop on Shudder and for others to see it.
AK: Thank you so much, I really appreciate your time.
KHC: Have a good day.
AK: You too.
"If enough people ask about it (Scare Package 2), then Shudder will green-light it. So, if folks can tweet at Shudder for a sequel there is a real possibility."
You heard Aaron, all. If you have already seen it and enjoyed it, or end up watching it and want more, let Shudder know you want a sequel to Scare Package. Let's help promote more films created by horror fans for fans.
Scare Package will become available to stream on Shudder June 18th. Read our review here.
*Photo provided by Aaron B. Koontz*
By Matt Konopka