★★★ out of ★★★★★
Scare Package is a horror-comedy anthology that gets points for knowing all the tropes by heart and trying really hard. It’s more lightly amusing than raucously funny, and it doesn’t always land the comedic beats, but it will certainly please fans of gory silliness. Bonus points for one BIG horror icon cameo appearance.
Horror comedies are a delicate thing. You usually need to hit all your marks or the whole thing falls flat. Scare Package succeeds on occasion, but telegraphs its jokes, or uses jokes on tropes that have been done before. The reference and the winks are set up so that they are impossible to miss, and it takes some of the fun out of the little touches.
I would put this movie a cut above the Scary Movie franchise, as it has a more nuanced independent spirit to it. Scary Movie goes for pop-cultural references to appeal to a broader audience, whereas Scare Package keeps it all within the genre for the genre deep divers. It doesn’t however hit the satirical high notes of something like Young Frankenstein or What We do in the Shadows, but that is a high bar to target.
This definitely feels like an assignment where a bunch of different directors were offered up a trope and told to run with it, and then used a loose wraparound story at a video store to stitch the whole thing together.
One thing that will please most horror audiences is the amount of gore splatter used in this anthology. There is very much the feel of “Top This!” emanating from these stories. Kudos to the makeup team for providing a top-notch splatter team.
Cold Open: Directed by Emily Hagins
The cold opening sequence is a very meta movie-within-a-movie-within-a-movie. A young man who is prepping the movie opening sequence wants to step into the story and be the hero, but unwittingly becomes a killer in a direct homage to Halloween. It is a clever scene, but once the pattern gets established, it is like a Saturday Night Live skit, and you can see the jokes coming from a mile away.
Rad Chad’s Horror Emporium: Directed by Aaron B. Koontz
This is the wraparound story, centered around a horror movie-loving video store owner, Chad (Jeremy King), and his new employee Hawn (Hawn Tran) where the doting Chad impresses upon the dutiful Hawn the values of VHS horror and serves as a segue from segment to segment. King is probably the breakout star of this whole anthology, as his eager, horror-loving clerk is a fill-in for the audience. We’ll get to see more of him throughout the anthology.
One Time in the Woods: Directed by Chris McInroy
This is easily the funniest of the segments. One of our favorite short film directors, Chris McInroy lampoons the camping trip gone bad with an extremely over-the-top gory game of one-upmanship with this camping trip gone horribly wrong. McInroy’s other material includes Death Metal and We Summoned a Demon, which are short film howlers and film festival favorites. If you have seen his other shorts you will recognize the actors Kirk C. Johnson and Carlos Larotta who are funny in all of McInroy’s productions.
M.I.S.T.,E.R. : Directed by Noah Segan
Men in Serious Turmoil, Establishing Rights! Werewolves, bro-help, and a cult ceremony. This is a mashup of two ideas. One is a story of a cult of werewolves masquerading as a men’s rights self-help group, and the other story involves a cult. If they stuck to just the werewolves, it probably would have been a better film, as that part was quite amusing, and the cult bit felt like an afterthought. Noah Segan also stars in this segment that he directed, playing a man curious about the M.I.S.T.,E.R. handbill in a bar bathroom, and is more than he seems.
Girls’ Night Out Of Body: Directed by Courtney and Hillary Andujar
Stealing a candy mask from a Korean grocer. Not the smartest thing to do. This too is a mashup of favorite tropes. On a girl’s night out, one of them steals a lollipop that is clearly possessed (DOOM!). And, for good measure, there is a stalker following them from the shadows. The mask ends up possessing the girls, and the stalker gets a big surprise. This is reminiscent of the scene in Trick R’ Treat where the stalkers become the victims. This is the Andujar twin’s first directorial effort after being production designers on movies including The Wind and The Girl on the 3rd Floor.
The Night He Came Back Again! Part IV: The Final Kill: Directed by Anthony Cousins
What do you do when you capture the un-killable masked serial killer? This gory segment was a good bit of fun, as it shows the futility of the attempts of a group of young protagonists who have captured the serial killer and are trying to put an end to him, but as Jason and Michael Myers would show us, killing a restrained supernatural killer is a near impossibility. Anthony Cousins had previously done one of our favorite short films The Bloody Ballad of Squirt Reynolds from 2018, and this has the same reverence for the ’80s source material.
So Much to Do: Directed by Baron Vaughan
A man captured in the trunk of a car by some cultists becomes possessed by the spirit of an old wizard, and then transfers his soul to an athletic young woman and the two of them duke it out for possession of her body, in the form of wrestling for the remote control. This one was a real head-scratcher, not making much sense or proving laughs or scares. Even upon a re-watch I didn’t get it.
Horror Hypothesis: Directed by Aaron B. Koontz
Escape from the lab experiment turned serial killer on the loose. (Halloween II or Visiting Hours anyone?) This offers up the best of the segment hand-offs as Chad gets captured after a birthday surprise, and gets put into a hospital lab experiment. Chad gives all the prisoners an archetype, and Joe Bob Briggs makes a surprise cameo. There is no subtlety to the trope references, as they are essentially shouted out to us by Chad and the tropes stack like a pile of dead teenagers, but it is a well-executed and loving take on the classic “Escape the Hospital” trope. Zoe Graham gets the nod as our final girl (with a fun twist in the middle) and she leads us into a clever turn into the wraparound.
All in all, this is a chance to showcase some of the talent of a number of successful comedy-horror short film directors who have been plying their trades in the film festival circuit for years, and you get to see a bunch of these connected together in this anthology. It’s a bit patchy, and occasionally a little too direct, but they all embrace the love of the genre in ways that will be very familiar to indie horror film fans.
Scare Package was playing at the Chattanooga Film Festival, and is being released on Shudder on June 18, so if horror trope comedy is your thing, set your calendar.