Thursday, June 18, 2020

Shudder: Scare Package

It is getting to the point where a lot of horror viewers will not have any personal memories of video stores. Sadly, the Upper Eastside holdout, the Video Room, closed last year and Vulcan Video, the store thanked in this film’s’ credits was shuttered because of the CCP-Virus shutdown (thanks again, Xi). Yet, the archetype of the horror movie nerd-video-store clerk persists. At least it does in the horror-comedy anthology-mash-up Scare Package, which premieres today on Shudder.

Package sets the ironic-meta tone early and often in Emily Hagins’ “Cold Open,” where we meet a struggling actor, coincidentally named Mike Myers, who is desperate to stay in his next film past the prologue set-up. Of course, it does not work out as he hoped. This segment segues into Aaron B. Koontz’s “Rad Chad’s Horror Emporium,” which sort of acts as a framing device for the other constituent stories that will be introduced as films-within-the-film, playing on the store’s monitors.

Weirdly, Chris McInroy’s “One Time in the Woods” and frequent genre thesp Noah Segan’s directorial debut “M.I.S.T.E.R.” would probably be funnier if they were in separate anthology films, because they both start out pretending to be about one sort of monster, before revealing the more pressing horror is something else entirely. Still, the ensembles for both (including Segan portraying a frustrated husband) are impressively energetic (even manic, in the case of “Woods”).

Perhaps the funniest segment is Anthony Cousins’ “The Night He Came Back Again! Part IV: The Final Kill,” where we see the Fourth of July Killer’s favorite victim try to turn the tables on her tormentor, yet again. Thematically, this is a lot like Shant Hamassian’s short film, Night of the Slasher, but Cousins and co-screenwriter John Karsko take it to much gorier and more absurdist extremes.

Courtney & Hillary Andujar’s “Girls’ Night Out of Body” has an appealing retro vibe, but they do not have a chance to fully develop their concept before the abrupt O.Henry-ish ending. Baron Vaughn’s “So Much to Do” also earns considerable style points, but the tale of shadowy figures and a struggle for control over an earthly body does not make a lot of sense.

Eventually, “Rad Chad’s Horror Emporium” transitions into Koontz’s “Horror Hypothesis,” but it is still driven by the title character’s confidence in his superior horror film knowledge to help him survive a strange abduction. The knowing jokes are still pretty funny, especially a sudden big-name genre cameo appearance (from someone who will be instantly recognizable to most Shudder viewers). It all descends into gleeful chaos, effectively stoked by genre regular Chase Williamson and Zoe Graham, as the stoner archetype and unlikely “final girl” candidate, respectively.

Like many comedic horror films, Scare Package is a bit uneven (and several featured characters are rather annoying), but it definitely scores more hits than misses. Strauss-Schulson’s The Final Girls remains the funniest take on this kind of thematic material, but genre fans should still get a kick out of it. Easily recommended for viewers with a sense of nostalgia, who do not take their slashers too seriously, Scare Package starts streaming today (6/18) on Shudder.