Released: 18th June
Seen: 12th August
The anthology horror film is making a comeback and I’m loving it. Over the course of the last few years I’ve talked about a lot of them that on this blog, from Necrologies which featured the ultimate adorable creature Pozu to the more watchable Ghost Stories. Even a couple of indie films tried to tackle this format to mixed results. Now, out of the ones I’ve reviewed I’ve yet to find one better than OK but there are some great ones out there, Trick ‘r’ Treat and VHS are among some of the best anthology horror films you could hope for. Well, now I’d like to throw Scare Package onto that pile of amazing anthology films. It might not be scary, but it’s whip smart and funny as hell.
Scare Package is a meta comedy anthology horror film that uses each of its segments to lovingly skewer an element of the horror genre in a broad cartoonish fashion. Filled with scene chewing acting, corny jokes and some impeccable practical effects that are so over the top that they fit right in with the 80s classics being mocked, it’s the kind of film that’s clearly been made with horror fans in mind, from the wraparound segments taking place in the video stores that a lot of horror fans got their education in to each segment tackling such pointed elements of the genre that the more you know about horror, the better off you’ll be.
From Scare Package‘s opening with the segment Cold Open, the tone is locked in place as ‘3 steps away from an actual cartoon’ and it works. Cold Open proposes that there’s one character who we never see who does things like change the sign that points to an insane asylum or cuts the power, and that character is bored of his life on the sidelines in a horror movie and wants to be the hero… unfortunately he’s clumsy as hell so it might not work out well for him. Easily the funniest segment of the film, loaded with some great riffs on classic slashers that rewards you for knowing the tropes. Even the reveal of the main character’s name is a great little joke, plus it very nicely transitions into the wraparound that’ll carry the film to the end.
The wraparound section that runs throughout Scare Package is called Rad Chad’s Horror Emporium and it’s the part that takes place mostly in a video store with a new employee being taught how to do his job, which includes regularly rotating the tapes which is what leads us into the various shorts we’ll see. Honestly, while the idea of this wraparound works well for me it has the more forgettable jokes, possibly because these jokes aren’t being punctuated by a geyser of blood like the jokes in the other sections are (hard to top a blood fountain when all you have is a zoom in on a video shelf). It’s still a good idea but just not nearly as punchy as it could’ve been. The characters are definitely familiar enough though, so anyone with even a passing knowledge of an old video rental store has met these characters.
Then we get the short One Time In The Woods, which might be the most bonkers short that appeared in Scare Package. It opens with a guy running upon a bunch of campers in a woods screaming about how they need to lock him up or else he’s going to transform and kill them and from there it just loses its mind and I love it for doing so. To describe the full insanity would be to spoil the fun but this short pretty much covers everything the 80s horror was great at doing. You get gory transformations, elaborate deaths, gross visuals and did I mention all the gore? It’s probably my favourite segment because it just throws everything at the wall and whatever doesn’t stick gets stapled in place because they could.
Given the tough task of following that is M.I.S.T.,E.R which tackles the men’s rights movement in all it’s absurdity head on. This one’s probably the most straightforward, playing with the concept of men who claim to be Alphas (by the way guys, you know the concept of Alphas was debunked by the very guy who hypothesised it in the first place right?) and taking it to an illogical extreme. I honestly wish this one had thrown a few more punches at it’s target, actually calling out the stupidity of some of these groups and how they behave because it feels a little disjointed towards the end. I know I just praised a short for throwing everything out there without regard but there’s a difference between doing that intentionally from the start and doing it by accident right at the finish line. I do admit though, this short is the one I kind of wish would be turned into a feature length movie.
Girls Night Out Of Body involves an evil lollipop that transformed a bunch of girls into strange skull head demons and I have to be honest that it’s the most forgettable out of the shorts. It’s certainly got some great imagery, the design of the skull head demon girls is creepy and effective and the ending is appropriately dreamlike and weird but lord help me if I could describe half of what goes on beyond pointing out that it’s a possession story that kind of just ends because they wanted it to end. The other shorts actually have something resembling a real ending, this one just kinda fades away when their time’s up.
The Night He Came Back Again Part IV – The Final Kill plays on the idea that all horror movie sequels play on, namely that the killer never dies and it does this by having a bunch of teenagers capture the killer in a horror movie and try again and again to kill him. Easily the smartest segment of the film that takes just one concept of slasher movies and plays it out to the extreme. It gives the effects a real chance to shine, so much so that it almost feels like the entire short was just the special effects guys showing off what cool gore effects they could do and the film works in a way to accommodate that. It’s campy, clever and cool, just what I needed and hoped I would get out of an anthology like Scare Package.
So Much To Do is a possession film where a man is kidnapped and buried by a cult who put a symbol on his forehead. While buried, his soul leaves his body and possesses a woman who is trying to go home so she can binge watch several seasons of a new show. Naturally, the guy who is now in possession of her body just wants to watch the season finale which would be a major spoiler and leads to an elaborate fist fight. This is the one that honestly feels the most out of place, even with the possession idea it has little to do with horror and it just boils down to a big fist fight between two people. It’s a well choreographed fist fight, but it’s just a fist fight… though the shot where the actual posession happens might be the coolest effect in the entire film.
Horror Hypothesis is the final short that makes up Scare Package and it brings the whole film to a head, since it is also directly linked to the video store wraparound. Because of some reasons a few characters from the wraparound find themselves in an underground lab where some research is being done into things like how fast can a masked serial killer run in comparison to a regularly tripping victime… and then the masked serial killer gets loose and does the thing one expects a masked serial killer to do. The concept of this short is great for the first half until it just becomes a full on horror movie, then it just goes down to OK (though the visual effects… god damn, amazing work there). The comedy of this one is a bit more hit and miss and the cameo feels a little pointless other than to advertise another thing that’s currently on Shudder but honestly, this entire short could suck and I’d still recommend it for one visual effects shot that’s so gloriously gory and well done that it made my jaw hit the floor.
On the whole, Scare Package is a lot more hit than miss. It’s silly and over the top and it revels in that, never once holding back or trying to be something more elevated than it is. With some of the best practical work that I’ve seen in a long time, it’s a love letter to horror nuts who just want to see their favourite genre get a bit of a light ribbing.