Jeremy King as Chad Buckley
Noah Segan as Husband
Toni Trucks as Franchesca
Chase Williamson as Pete
Baron Vaughn as Varron Bonn
Johnathan Fernandez as Bartender
Jocelyn DeBoer as Wife
Dustin Rhodes as Devil’s Lake Impaler
Gabrielle Maiden as Jamie
Zoe Graham as Jessie
Hawn Tran as Hawn
Co-created by Aaron Koontz and Cameron Burns
“Girls’ Night Out of Body” Co-written and Co-directed by Courtney & Hillary Andujar; “The Night He Came Back Again! Part IV: The Final Kill” Co-written and Directed by Anthony Cousins; “Cold Open” Written and directed by Emily Hagins; “Rad Chad’s Horror Emporium, Horror Hypothesis” Co-written and Directed by Aaron Koontz; “One Time In The Woods” Written and Directed by Chris McInroy; “M.I.S.T.,E.R” Co-written and Directed by Noah Segan; “So Much To Do” Written and Directed by Baron Vaughn
Scare Package Review:
The horror anthology genre is one of the most potential-filled areas of film that has seen some successful outings, namely the first two installments in the V/H/S franchise as well as the original Creepshow film and recent revival series and 2015’s Southbound, but it has also seen a lot films crumble under pressure. The money heads behind the horror-focused streaming service Shudder have proven to be one of the most innovative with their streaming library and the latest venture, Scare Package, has set itself up as one of the most thrilling and entertaining efforts in the horror anthology genre to date.
Chad Buckley is the owner of Rad Chad’s Horror Emporium, one of the last-standing video rental shops with a heavy focus on its titular genre, and is very protective of who he hires and allows access behind the scenes of his business. After hiring new employee Hawn, he recounts a series of bone-chilling, blood-splattered tales to illustrate the rules of the horror genre to the prodigy, before eventually learning Hawn himself may not be who he appears.
Every good anthology film needs some sort of through line to help drive the introduction of each individual segment to keep it from appearing as a generic sketch series or The Twilight Zone knock-off, and the idea of setting the overarching plot in a horror emporium is a brilliant setup for what’s to come in each story. Many horror anthologies of the past have seen writers and directors elect to take a more serious approach to their tales, and while many have succeeded, it feels like a true breath of fresh air to see the diverse roster of filmmakers here choose the self-aware and frequently darkly comedic paths.
The “One Time in the Woods'” segment’s fast-paced introduction of a number of characters, including a melting man whose transformation can only be stopped with a pair of silver handcuffs offered by a slasher hiding amongst a group of horny young adult campers, is one of the most gut-busting and exhilarating in the film. The number of tropes it touches upon is very akin to that of campy ’80s classics, but rather than put those films down or attempt to genuinely terrify audiences, it plants its tongue firmly in its cheek and revels in the bloody and nauseating special effects madness it conjures up.
The film also sees the directorial debuts of typically comedic Baron Vaughn and frequent Rian Johnson star Noah Segan with the possession-centric “So Much to Do” and the toxic masculinity-skewering “M.I.S.T.,E.R.” and the two prove themselves naturals behind the lens and in the world of horror. Vaughn’s tale of a woman fighting against a possession and spoilers begins mysterious and haunting and transitions into its more comedic elements with grace, leaving audiences hanging with an ending that would spin-off into an interesting movie all on its own.
Segan’s “M.I.S.T.,E.R.” is a much more serious venture from the 36-year-old co-writer/director than Vaughn’s, but not so much that it stands out tonally with the rest of the self-aware anthology. Featuring subtle nods of everything from David Fincher’s Fight Club to Mike Nichols’ Wolf, Segan keeps audiences on the edge with his slow-burning, modern noir-esque tale and smartly explores the ever-timely issue of toxic masculinity and once the action gets underway, reveals his eye for style.
While every segment in the film is entertaining to some degree, there is one or two that find themselves standing out in less of a positive manner and more of an underwhelming affair, namely “The Night He Came Back!” and “Girls’ Night Out of Body.” The former is a funny breakdown of the horror genre’s tropes of slashers seemingly surviving whatever pain is thrown their way, but as the segment goes on and the slasher isn’t the only to die, it starts to lose some of its luster and become too reliant on its central gag that everything around it pales in comparison. The latter begins with a decent setup, a group of girls looking to party and stealing a mysterious looking lollipop from a store that was encased in a “Not For Sale” box while some mysterious stalker follows their every move. But as the night progresses and becomes more sinister, it begins to raise questions of the meaning behind any of it and proves not nearly as compelling as its start.
Whether it be a fantastic or lackluster segment, however, the film as a whole is comprised of a number of great performances from its talented ensemble, with everyone from mainstream performers Segan and Vaughn shining in their segments alongside strong turns from indie horror mainstay Chase Williamson of John Dies at the End fame, Jeremy King, Toni Trucks, Zoe Graham, Allan McLeod, Frank Garcia-Hejl and Jocelyn DeBoer.
Scare Package may occasionally get a little too meta for its own good and has a mismatched segment or two but thanks to a talented ensemble of filmmakers and stars, frequently hilarious and tongue-in-cheek tales subverting horror tropes and a gleeful abundance of gory practical effects, it sets itself apart as one of the best anthology film efforts in years and a thrill ride for genre enthusiasts and newcomers alike.