I’m a huge fan of anthologies, and this year, I have had the opportunity to watch several of them. However, it was one wild-ass meta ride of an anthology titled Scare Package that became my favorite anthology of the last couple of years due to its playfulness, heart and pastiche of 80’s horror.
Scare Package has its tongue firmly placed in cheek with its opening story, ‘Cold Open,’ directed by Emily Hagins (Grow Up Tony Phillips). The story revolves around a dude that very much understands that his job in daily life is to offer a generic cold open day in and day out. Tired of the rigmarole, he decides to take steps to become more than a cold open character and someone that might have more a pivotal role in life. Of course this comes with hilarious and deadly consequences.
It’s a nice setup and sets a clear blueprint of the sort of horror-beholden shenanigans the audience is in store for. From Cold Open we are lead into the wrap-around portion of Scare Package and, man is it a fun one. It takes place in a video store owned by a Joe Bob Briggs obsessed dude named Rad Chad. Each of the following segments in the anthology are introduced through this particular group of video store employees. It gives the entire structure of the anthology a creative and unique approach to its core.
Scare Package does a nice job of delivering the goods with a completely eclectic selection of stories, that could have easily been akin to randomly selecting videos from your local video store on a Saturday night. In fact, the film speaks to that singularly special feeling of sharing random, bloody video store picks and enjoying them with friends over the weekend. That is of course back when video stores were a ubiquitous thing.
For example, One Time in the Woods is a perfectly goopy and hilarious ride that would have fit in very well with the school of Troma. In this one, a group of friends out attempting to camp in the woods is interrupted by a slime gloppola monster and a serial killer. There are some great comedy bits and gags, but the real MVP is the incredible practical makeup effects that ramp up throughout.
Noah Segan (Knives Out) writes, acts and directs in a straight up werewolf story titled M.I.S.T.E.R. I can definitely say that you have never seen any werewolf story like this werewolf story. It’s got the wolfouts and gore that you would hope for and all, but it’s message is really smart and entirely poignant for our current climate.
Horror Hypothesis is the big red bow on the entire run of Scare Package. Directed by Aaron Koontz (Camera Obscura), this entry takes the characters from the wrap around and places them into a seriously hilarious love letter to a bevy of slasher films. In this one, a group of folks have to escape The Devil’s Lake Impaler (think Jason Voorhees) while adhering closely to the unwritten rules of a slasher. It’s full of winks and nods to some memorable moments from horror history and a big fuckin surprise in the shape of bigger than life Joe Bob Briggs briefly dropping in to assist in battling The Impaler.
You can seriously feel the passionate reverence for horror throughout Scare Package. I know without question these select filmmakers were at the video store picking up as many horror films as they were allowed in a weekend during their youth. That sort of history and love for the genre is bleeding through the screen in unique ways in each of Scare Package’s segments. That sort of thing comes with a two-fisted approach of pure honesty and not holding anything back, and the film is all the better for it.
The most charming thing about horror anthologies is the ability to offer a cup of tea to everyone. Each story recalling youthful bedtime, or campfire stories; these scares feel like an old friend. Scare Package is a resolute, fun and meta take on horror anthologies as a whole. It offers the most meta wormhole that we may have ever traveled through as an audience of anthology fare. It also offers up a group of filmmakers that are made up of the same ilk that made magic possible in anthologies like Creepshow and Tales from the Crypt. Its overt honesty to the genre and the blast I had watching it will keep me coming back to re-watch and show as many like minded friends as possible.