SCARE PACKAGE *** USA 2019 Dir: Mali Elfman, Courtney Andujar, Hillary Andujar, Anthony Cousins, Emily Hagins, Aaron B Koontz, Chris McInroy, Noah Segan, Baron Vaughn. 103 mins
“I don’t know about all the meta stuff…” Here’s a multi-story, self-aware horror anthology from multiple filmmakers, constructed around a video store that has its own “Post-Modern Slasher” section, with certain episodes taking the form of the shop’s videos and a grand finale tying the stories together. It opens on a high with “Cold Open”, directed by Emily Hagins, whose horror career famously began when she wrote the zombie movie script “Pathogen” at the age of 11, when most of us were finding excuses to disappear into the bathroom for three hours with the Freeman’s catalogue and / or a poster of Richard Gere. It’s a campsite horror tale pivoting around a clever concept: Jon Michael Simpson plays that genre character who initiates a variety of horror scenarios (e.g. real estate agent selling an Amityville-style cursed house), resigned to the fact that he will never be a “real” horror movie character. In this teen slasher set-up, he’s the guy who cut the power and the good-natured story apes the tone of TUCKER AND DALE VS EVIL with a dash of Zucker Brothers wackiness as we follow the plight of a shmuck who happens to be called Michael Myers.
The main framing device – from Aaron B Koontz – has video shop owner Jeremy King training a new recruit (Hawn Tran) while dealing with an obnoxious customer (Bryon Brown). Their interactions wrap around Chris McInroy’s “One Time In The Woods”, in which The Backwoods Slasher is the centre of an impressively gooey story with absurdist Monty Python gore gags in which characters are beaten up with their own severed limbs (“I just signed up for a marathon!”). Noah Segan’s “M.I.S.T.E.R.” is a fun if one-joke tale of a henpecked husband (Segan himself) joining a group of frustrated males desperately trying to take back the power after years of being nagged for leaving the toilet seat up. Young women trying to conform to societal expectations about ageing bear the consequences of cursed candy in “Girls Night Out of Body” and Anthony Cousins’ “The Night He Came Back Again! Part IV: The Final Kill” is a lively distillation of the unkillable masked maniac trope with intestines, exploding heads and the line “I’d like to rent a woodchipper”. Adorned with Alex Cuervo’s great synth score, SCARE PACKAGE is stylish and good looking, though a little over-stretched. Koontz’s closing “Horror Hypothesis” is an endearing endnote, breezing through a variation of CABIN IN THE WOODS with Joe Bob Briggs as the hero, an enthusiastic cast and some genuinely funny gags (note the cat scare). Like the film as a whole it has some terrific old-school practical make up effects and a good natured sense of fun.
Review by Steven West