[Telluride Horror Show Review] 'Scare Package II' Ups the Insanity with a Bloody Valentine Love Letter to Fans
“Sequels are the life blood of the horror genre…”
…A wise man named Chad (Jeremy King) once said that. A genre-obsessed video store owner, he bravely gave his life to save a misfit band of characters in the horror-comedy anthology, Scare Package. A collection of quirky tales which upend horror clichés while splattering the screen with heaps of gore, the film was an utter riot that had fans screaming for more. Creators Aaron B. Koontz and Cameron Burns have answered those bloodthirsty wishes with Scare Package II: Rad Chad’s Revenge, which just played at the Telluride Horror Show Film Festival.
Set not long after the first film, Scare Package II opens on Chad’s rather awkward funeral. There, Scare Package’s “Final Girl”, Jessie (Zoe Graham), has gathered with her girlfriend Kimmie (Shakira Ja’nai Paye) and others to pay respects to the delusional horror nerd. The funeral turns out to be more exciting than they expected though when a gas knocks them out and they find themselves the prisoners of a twisted game in which they must learn lessons from horror movies in order to survive.
What sets both Scare Package films apart from other horror anthologies is that they give you a wraparound story that isn’t just a rusty tool used to introduce each segment but the highlight of the film itself. Directed by Koontz and written by Koontz and Burns, the Saw-esque scenario in this one tosses together genre faves like Kelli Maroney and Graham Skipper and inflicts hilariously horrific atrocities on them. Hardcore fans of campy horror themselves, the filmmakers up the insanity which the audience craves, from extreme practical gore to gross-out terror that’ll have your intestines splitting. The absurd games of death all had me rolling in my grave, one of which is a take on the Nic Cage Wicker Man bees bit that absolutely slays. Of course, Jeremy King is once again the giddy, scene-stealing star of the show introducing the stories, but each character is given their moment to shine, with Skipper in particular providing some of the wildest laughs.
As for the shorts—which the film smartly cuts down on this time to make room for more in-depth tales--Scare Package II is once again a mixed body bag of utterly insane stories packed with so many references you’ll want to be kind and rewind just to catch them all.
The first short, “Welcome to the 90s”, is a prime example of how this anthology series pays careful homage to horror tropes while also twisting them into something different. Written/directed by Alexandra Barreto, we’re introduced to a group of “Final Girls” all based on classic characters like Nancy or Ginny. The girls find themselves questioning their uptight morality as a killer stalks them in a decade where girls who actually have fun can survive a horror movie, too. A clever middle finger to tropes like “have sex and die”, Barreto’s segment delivers the sort of quirky commentary on top of outrageous kills that we’ve come to expect from this franchise.
This sequel is a bloody valentine love letter to fans and returns various favorites from the original, including a follow up to director Anthony Cousins’ Scare Package segment, “The Night He Came Back Again! Part VI: The Night She Came Back”. Daisy (Chelsey Grant) once again faces off against her indestructible nemesis, this time discovering something about herself that changes everything. The short struggles to recapture the humorous originality of Cousins’ previous entry but explodes with just enough silly mayhem to keep it entertaining nonetheless. The reason so many originals are regarded as “the best” in their respective franchises is because it’s difficult to reclaim that magic of something “fresh”. Scare Package II is more or less that in a blood-soaked nutshell in that none of these shorts quite reach the unique heights of the first. But what it lacks in that “new” energy that made the OG so memorable, it more than makes up for in fun winks and nods that fans of the first film can sink their teeth into.
Don’t get me wrong. Scare Package II no longer has that new car smell, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a roaring V8 engine under the hood unleashing a cloud of laughing gas.
The effect of such a bonkers anthology is that at some point you start to feel like you’ve lost your mind. Writer/director Jed Sheperd—one of the creators behind 2020’s Host—inserts perhaps the strangest segment of the film with “Special Edition”. Following a group of women (featuring the cast of Host) as they clean out an old lighthouse and discover a tape with a supernatural being attached to it, Sheperd’s entry is an outlier in that it takes itself a bit more seriously than the others. Played more for scares than laughs and not necessarily effective with either, “Special Edition” is like that obscure flick you stumble across at 3am after you’ve taken an edible. Nonsensical, weird, it defies explanation with a WTF premise that you have to see for yourself.
Despite differences of quality between segments, the one constant is that Scare Package II is insanely bloody. Insanely gross. And insanely entertaining. All of which shows up in “We’re So Dead”, directed by Rachele Wiggins. Written by Koontz and Burns, this short is a monstrous mashing of Re-Animator, The Fly and other classics which sees a group of kids attempting to re-animate a dead body. There is no shortage of creativity in Scare Package II, and this segment nails that home with a story that embodies what makes this franchise a gruesome treat.
Like the first film, Scare Package II isn’t for everyone. Too goofy for some, too gross for others, it’s a film made by fans for fans that pays loving tribute to everything we adore about the horror genre. This film is a party, decorated with blood-filled balloons and intestinal streamers. You can watch it alone, but it’s meant to be shared with other weirdos like us who appreciate a good dose of twisted humor and references we can geek out to (just wait until you see the Nightmare 3 gag). Instead of blowing away expectations, Scare Package II indulges in them. The filmmakers know what we’re here for, and they give us exactly that. Don’t go in expecting it to top the first film, but do go in knowing you’re going to have a killer time.
Consider this a Rad Chad recommendation from beyond.
By Matt Konopka