Scare Package

3 out of 5

Directed by: Various, created by Aaron Koontz and Cameron Burns

An anthology film with its heart – and its excess gore – all in the right places, but being an anthology, you’re always somewhat sum-of-your-parts, and not all of those parts are here created equal. But: the general mandate here (from co-creator and wraparound director Aaron Koontz) seemed to have been to keep things moving, and to err towards goofy, so there’s a rapid-fire approach to Scare Package that prevents it from ever hitting a true downbeat, and an energy that keeps it charming, even when it errs.

For example: slumber party-stalker Girls Night Out Of Body doesn’t really find its rhythm, withholding its twist on formula for too long – like the focus feels off, and you’ll be able to call out the joke way before we get there. But: its final shot of a feathers-flying pillow fight then sort of perfectly doubles down on the joke, and also cements something that holds true for all of the entries’ helmers – that they have a set tone they’re aiming for in their contributions, and stick to it, from look and feel to acting style. That goes a long way toward holding our attentions, as it insures a baseline of quality consistency.

And some of it suffers from sequencing: the super self-aware tone and wildly over-the-top, head ‘splodin’ gore of The Night He Came Back Again! Part IV: The Final Kill retreads similar effects and humor from the earlier One Time In The Woods. While the latter is, I’d say, a bit sharper in the way it wields its humor, and more inventive with its blood n’ guts, it undeniably has the benefit over Night by getting to go first. However, here again we have that momentum and an improv comic’s sense of just rolling with the gag – the killer that keeps coming back again and again does not waste time in doing so, nor does the script fill up screen time with anything except for deaths and jokes.

Even when things are only marginally horror – spiritual possession entry So Much To Do – we get a pretty impressive fight sequence, some hilarious cutaway shots (to a faux reality show), and a solid punchline.

And those are the slight missteps. A good impression is made in how we start, with all of the strongest pieces, which also happen to be the most effectively linked, with the super meta Cold Open – a brilliantly winky bit about knowing you’re a side character in a horror movie – turning into one of Cold Open’s characters pitching a film script to the VHS-rental store owner star of the Rad Chad’s Horror Emporium framing narrative, which gives way to Chad (Jeremy King) listening to an obnoxious store patron explain a flick he’s “gotta see,” which becomes the second short, One Time In The Woods. This is something of a Cabin Fever riff (and a half) that goes too far in all the best ways, and lands all of its jokes and gore, from start to finish.

Rad Chad’s VHS shop is, of course, how we step into the other shorts, with new hire Hawn (Hawn Tran) either hearing about or watching tapes, eventually leading to the concluding part of the framing narrative, Horror Hypothesis. The frame loses a bit of its witty shine without the seamlessness of the opening entries, and Horror Hypothesis’ “we”re in a horror movie!” shtick has been done several times over by this point, but Jeremy King’s humorous character, quality gore effects, and the good joke timing definitely keep it in that realm of confidently entertaining the entirety of Scare Package has managed… and it whips out a key, unexpected cameo just in time to perk us up for the final act.