CINE-WEEN: Scare Package Is A Meta-Horror Joy

Created by Aaron B. Koontz and Cameron Burns of Paper Street Pictures, and directed by Emily Hagins, Chris McInroy, Noah Segan, Courtney and Hillary Andujar, Anthony Cousins, Baron Vaughn, and Koontz (who all co-wrote the film with Frank Garcia-Hejl, Ben Fee, and John Karsko), the new anthology film Scare Package feels less like a collective effort, and more like a grand, cohesive vision.

“In Scare Package, Chad Buckley is a lonely Horror aficionado, spending his days overseeing a struggling video store and arguing with his only customer, Sam. When an unsuspecting job applicant arrives, Chad sets out to teach him the rules of Horror; weaving in and out of hilarious segments geared toward the ropes and tropes of terror.”

Horror anthologies are seeing a bit of resurgence these days, and while many seem to just work as a way to string together a batch of short films under a larger banner, the ones which work best have an overarching connecting story and/or thematic thread which makes it feel like a feature, as opposed to operating as a collection. Scare Package is one of the latter, and it’s an absolute joy.

Part of what makes the anthology work so well is the commitment to tone. While some segments are darker than others, there’s a definite comedic tone throughout all of them, and they’re not afraid to get really weird. As the plot summary suggests, Scare Package leans heavily into the meta aspects of the plot.

The “Cold Open” installment, which kicks off the film, sees a guy named Mike Myers doing all of the behind-the-scenes things that occur before a horror movie gets going. He’s the guy who messes with a road sign, puts the satanic relics in the attic, sells the haunted house to an unsuspecting couple – all of the pieces which will inevitably set the plot in motion. The piece is really clever, and the way Jon Michael Simpson plays him is hilarious with his wide-eyed awareness of who he is and what he does. It’s a great way to set the stage before we move the grander frame tale of Chad and his shop, Rad Chad’s Horror Emporium, and the way that particular story will lead us to all of the other parts which branch off from there.

Honestly, Scare Package actually works best when you watch it as a feature, rather than an anthology, because of the way each piece plays into the next. Flowing in and out of the VCR at Rad Chad’s, the individual segments all play into one another by commenting on the different horror tropes they’re focused on. It’s not Trick R’ Treat, in terms of overlapping plots and characters, but there’s this definite sense of Cabin in the Woods, where you feel that you’re getting a sense of commentary on horror as a whole.

“One Time In The Woods” and “The Night He Came Back Again! Part IV: The Final Kill” are perhaps the most outwardly meta segments in the film, with a definite winking take on the genre’s more obvious tropes of the slasher, working in outright splatstick that’s sticky and messy and full of nods to the more outwardly absurd aspects of the unkillable killer. Though they’re also the least subtle, they have a sense of fun about them which had me cackling with delight as bodies were hacked, goo-ified, and splattered across the screen.

While “Girls Night Out Of Body” and “So Much To Do” are far more restrained, they’re also the most visually-compelling in their presentation, really leaning into the possibilities of strange imagery to push forward a sense of horror. Without having to stick to a straightforward narrative, they go far more into creating an atmosphere of unease and provide an excellent sense of balance to the otherwise more obvious, on-the-nose points in the other segments.

Even though the final segment, “Horror Hypothesis,” goes on a bit too long, stretching the film to nearly the two-hour mark, it’s impressively shot, and does a superb job of tying everything in the preceding 80 minutes together. While it might be uncomfortably close to Cabin in the Woods, the last scene brings everything full-circle so perfectly, I can’t really fault it.

Scare Package, while slightly overlong, is a wonderful choice for this spooky season, where there are so many things from which to choose that it’s impossible to pick. By watching this one film, you get your horror comedy, your slasher, your body horror, your monster movie and more, and it’s entertaining all the way through.

RLJE Films will release Scare Package via On Demand, Digital, DVD and Blu-ray October 20.

Nick Spacek
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