Between “Scare Package” and “PORNO,” it would appear that 2020 is the year of gnarly dick mutilations in horror. If that sentence warms your gorehound heart, then this collection of humorous horror tales is bound to satisfy you in some way. Helmed by eight filmmakers (Emily Hagins, Aaron B. Koontz, Chris McInroy, Noah Segan, Anthony Cousins, Baron Vaughn, Courtney Andujar and Hillary Andujar), “Scare Package” is the latest horror anthology feature to showcase a collective pool of indie talent and the gruesome, slimy toys they’ve been itching to play with, some panning out better than others.
Within the walls of Rad Chad’s Video Emporium, a cinephile haven only a Tarantino could love, lies a collection of obscure horror movies, each of which has their own twister story to tell. Armed with enough trivia to sweep the Final Exam Horror Trivia, store owner Chad (Jeremy King), dressed in full Joe Bob Briggs garb, shepherds trainee Hawn (Hawn Tran) through the store’s extensive genre collection. From gooey slasher to post-modern feminist slasher revenge body horror, Chad’s retro domain pretty much has it all.
The structural presentation of “Scare Package” usually involves Chad introducing the individual shorts as in-universe slasher movies that can be found throughout every corner of his store. Each unique in their own manner, the uniform silliness within these segments embody an ultra meta-aware aesthetic similar to the “Deadpool” movies. The array of shorts closely resemble a bunch of “what if” scenarios cooked in the stews of famous horror cliches that could only work in the form of a full-on parody. The concept of “Scare Package” feels like it would have been made by horror trope expert Randy had he survived past “Scream 2.” I’d say that’s a fair barometer of whether the self-referential meta humor will either make you laugh or have you rolling your eyes.
Within the film’s first segment, Emily Hagins’s “Cold Open,” its cheeky sense of humor reveals itself in Mike (Jon Michael Simpson), an expendable plot device whose role is to be the primary catalyst for horror movie stuff to happen. Need to curse a doll or send a car of partying teens down a path to their doom? Mike’s your guy. He dreams of playing a much more prominent role and stumbles down a path that, well, definitely sends him there. Simpson, above all, is remarkably funny up to his final, applause-worthy stinger of a punchline. I really enjoyed his performance.
Another highlight is Anthony Cousins’s “The Night He Came Back Again! – Part IV: The Final Kill,” an absurd riff on the indestructible nature of slasher villains. Former final girl Daisy (Chelsey Grant) and her friends finally apprehend the killer that ruined their lives, utilizing a bevy of weapons that hardly make a scratch. The central joke can be seen from a mile away, but the humorous, disgusting results speak for themselves.
In the case of “Scare Package,” your enjoyment of these vignettes will rely on your tolerance for its loose structure. Most, if not all, open with an acknowledged nod toward said cliche, followed by an assemblance of practical, slimy gore effects. Chris McInroy’s “One Time in the Woods” is the best example of this. There’s never a dull moment to be had when a melting man, reduced to a pile of guts, complains because another guy’s blood is getting into his blood. The practical effects on display are just as big a star as the actors themselves. I mean, just look at that.
As with most anthologies, however, there’s bound to be a few segments that don’t quite stick the landing despite their best effort. It can be especially frustrating when you wait for its central joke to manifest into and it doesn’t (i.e “So Much to Do” and “Girls Night Out of Body”). I see what Vaughn and the Andujar Twins are attempting to pull off, even if their segments’ conclusions don’t lead to much of a satisfying punchline.
For as much as there is to be had here, “Scare Package” tends to lose steam as the film reaches its lengthy final segment, “Horror Hypothesis.” I can’t exactly refer to which horror classic the anthology’s climax attempts to emulate without spoiling it, but its setup is a lesser gag on a film that pulls off a similar wink-and-nod trick with smoother and more satisfying results. Certain slices of the horror crowd will definitely be tickled pink at the guest appearance who makes a heroic emergence in Koontz’s finale, however.
For all of its blemishes, “Scare Package” is undoubtedly made by a group of horror nerds who share a collective affinity for all the little touches they lampoon and pay homage to. There’s no denying that this assortment of cute gags and gross-out practical effects plays to a select crowd, but for those hungry gorehounds that need a good fix, like me, there’s enough enjoyment to mine out of “Scare Package.”
“Scare Package” is now streaming on Shudder.
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Matt graduated from Keene State College in 2017 with a Bachelor’s in Critical Film Studies. A few of his favorite films include “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Army of Darkness,” “Before Sunrise” and “Certain Women.” Having already contributed to Bloody Disgusting, ELF Magazine and The Simple Cinephile, Matt aspires to expand and continue writing with various outlets. If there’s any chance to talk about horror films and/or Twin Peaks, he’ll very much jump at the opportunity.