In a strange year where most of the original horror movies we were anticipating have been delayed, Shudder has stepped up with its original content. Its latest release, Scare Package, is a horror anthology helmed by several up-and-coming directors. Like the ABCs of Death or the V/H/S franchise, Scare Package could offer horror fans a glimpse of the next ‘Master of Horror’. While anthology movies can be pretty mixed in terms of quality, this Shudder original at least looks like it has segments bound by a common theme – a self-aware approach to horror.
Eight up-and-coming directors come together for Shudder’s horror anthology, Scare Package. When Chad, the owner of Rad Chad’s Horror Emporium, hires a new employee, he needs to show him the ropes. To illustrate horror’s most common rules and tropes, Chad shares seven grisly genre tales, each one reflecting on specific ‘rules of horror’.
Scare Package Packed With Quirky Humour and Clever Riffs on the Genre
How do you review a movie that isn’t trying to be ‘good’ in the conventional sense? Scare Package is a horror-comedy where the effects are supposed to be cheesy, the humour absurdist, and movie references plentiful. This is an irreverent movie that even plays fast and loose with its anthology format. More DNA is shared with the ABC’s of Death than anything Amicus Productions ever released. And Scare Package certainly has some clever bits. On the surface, the movie’s wraparound segment – built around the banter of Chad and his new employee at Rad Chad’s Horror Emporium – may be the most unique way an anthology movie has introduced its segments. Each segment attacking a different horror genre and trope feels inspired.
This is an irreverent movie that even plays fast and loose with its anthology format
Like all horror anthology movies, the segments are hit and miss. With references to Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street, Emily Hagins’ ‘Cold Open’ is a fun, eccentric look at a background character’s misguided attempts to play a bigger role in his ‘movie’. Another ‘camping gone wrong’ segment lays on some hilariously grotesque blood and gore. But the Anthony Cousin’s segment, The Night He Came Back Again Part IV – The Final Kill, may be the movie’s best, riffing on Friday the 13th. Other segments have promising ideas but miss something in the execution. Noah Segan’s take on toxic masculinity, M.I.S.T.E.R., goes off the rails by the end. And the Andujar sisters‘ Girls Night Out of Body looks good yet feels somewhat aimless.
Scare Package Tests the Limits of Self-Aware Horror
Where Scare Package may divide audiences is in its relentless ‘meta’ humour. Specifically, two problems immediately emerge. First, Scare Package isn’t just treading on familiar ground. It’s trampling on it. At this point, the whole ‘meta’ horror movie has been done ad nauseam. Scream, Final Girls, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, You Might Be The Killer, Seed of Chucky, Tucker and Dave vs Evil – is it even hip anymore to riff on horror tropes in movies? Yes, cinephiles love Easter Eggs in movies. But Scare Package sometimes feels more like a YouTube bit on horror movie references than a movie itself. Over the course of 90 minutes, the movie references almost become exhausting.
There’s almost constant mugging so it’s not surprising that many of the jokes feel forced or fall flat.
A second problem with Scare Package is the humour itself. Oftentimes Scare Package feels witty and nails its absurdist humour. But like 12-year-old boys, this horror anthology also doesn’t know when the joke is over. In this respect, the Shudder original shares something in common with the Scary Movie franchise. There’s almost constant mugging so it’s not surprising that many of the jokes feel forced or fall flat. In fact, Scare Package occasionally feels like it’s trying way too hard. Much of the banter in the wraparound segments, for example, becomes exhausting. When you’re making jokes about nerds living with their mothers, you’re not charting out fresh territory.
Scare Package a ‘Review Proof’ Horror Anthology With a Likely Built-In Audience
Perhaps it’s better to say that Scare Package has ‘select appeal’ rather than ‘limited appeal’. If you’re a fan of Joe Bob Briggs’ The Last Drive-In or Mystery Science Theater 3000, you’ll probably love Scare Package. This is an intentionally silly, way over-the-top horror comedy that wears its heart on its sleeve. All the directors involved in the movie clearly love the horror genre. Like all horror anthologies, this Shudder original is uneven. And Scare Package tries hard – probably too hard – to nail its meta-humour and movie references. Though some jokes are clever and the practical effects gore recalls the best of, say, Evil Dead, this is a tough one to generally recommend. This is a review-proof movie that likely has a built-audience that will eat it up. Everyone else may struggle to get through it.
THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: B-