Shudder is back with another premiere, and this time it’s with a proper old school horror anthology going by the name of Scare Package – and it’s an utter delight. The framing device is that these films take place within the confines of “Rad Chad’s Horror Emporium” and come out of discussions between the cast made up of store owner Chad (Jeremy King), his new hire Hawn (Hawn Tran), and the store’s over-eager fan and horror buff Sam (Byron Brown).
The tales on offer are:
1. Cold Open (Directed by Emily Hagins)
So you know how in horror films there are always cursed dolls, weird creepy collections of artefacts, bizarre writing on the walls…. have you ever wondered who did that? Well it turns out it’s down to one guy, called Mike, and he wants a bigger role in these stories he sets up. He’s bored at his job and he wants more so one day he decides to do something impulsive, something unexpected and reckless. How does it pan out? You’ll just need to watch and see. While not the strongest story here, it’s a good opener and sets the tone nicely for what follows.
2. One Time in the Woods (Directed by Chris McInroy)
What would you do if you were out camping in the woods and someone ran up to you, screaming that you needed to kill him or he’d kill you? What would you do? Honestly, you’d probably do a better job than the folks in this gory tale as the bodies begin to mount, blood sprays in pints and the Backwoods Slasher suddenly shows up just to mix things up a bit more because when you have one man threatening you with death the best thing you can do is throw a serial killer into the mix. This one is my favourite of the lot, filled with snappy dialogue, great acting and buckets of gore.
3. M.I.S.T.,E.R (Directed by Noah Segan)
There’s a bit of a Fight Club vibe to this one, with our meek and henpecked protagonist spotting a poster for a group called “M.I.S.T.,E.R” which stands for “Men in Serious Turmoil Establishing Rights” (typo and all, because REAL MEN don’t use spellcheck!). Deciding that he needs to learn how to be an ALPHA MALE he attends the meeting only to discover that when they talk about reclaiming their heritage and going out for a “special game” there’s more going on than meets the eye.
4. Girls Night Out of Body (Directed by Courtney Andujar and Hillary Andujar)
Of all the stories, this is the weakest one, mainly because it ends without a real resolution or even an explanation. Three girls heading out for a drunken night stop at a little shop to load up with booze and snacks when one of them notices a strange, skull shaped candy with a sign stating that it’s not for sale. They steal it, of course, only to discover that there was a very good reason that it wasn’t for sale… it’s CURSED. Unthinkable, right? Strange things happen and there’s a brief encounter with a stalker and then the story ends. It’s an interesting little vignette but it needed a bit more oomph to it, a bit more in the way of consequence, maybe.
5. The Night He Came Back Again! Part IV: The Final Kill (Directed by Anthony Cousins)
The story of the Final Girl who’s tired of the masked killer always coming back from the dead to kill her boyfriends and everyone around her. But not this time, this time it ends! Now they have him chained to a table, and they’re going to kill him by any means necessary. The problem is that not only does he prove surprisingly difficult to kill, he’s also quite capable of killing people even when tied down. It’s hard to claim that this story is over the top given the ridiculous amounts of damage inflicted on other horror protagonists such as Jason Voorhees or Freddy Krueger who both seem capable of shrugging off any injury or seeming defeat to come back again and again.
6. So Much to Do (Directed by Baron Vaughn)
So someone’s stolen your body. Now what do you do? When a man who was buried alive comes back from the dead and steals the body of a hapless passerby what follows is a battle to the finish for ownership of the body, mainly centered around possession of a remote control for the TV while also tossing in hints of black magic and eeeeevil cults. Trust me, it all makes sense within the confines of the story. The story is pretty straight to the point, one half set up, one half battle to the death with some impressive physicality on display from the two characters as they throw each other around the room.
7. Horror Hypothesis (Directed by Aaron B. Koontz)
This final story features ALL THE GAME OF THRONES SPOILERS. Also death by treadmill. But no, seriously, if you haven’t watched Game of Thrones and you’re planning to? Skip over every bit that involves the two security guards because they manage to spoil pretty much the entire story. This is the meta episode, with our characters trapped inside a laboratory which is studying the tropes of horror movies. Why do phones never work? Why do cars never start? Why do people always trip and fall when they’re trying to run away? It’s a fun ride, taking all the tropes of horror and prodding fun at them with a knowing nod and wink to the audience and wrapping the overarching storyline up with a neat little bow at the same time.
Scare Package is a total package for horror aficionados. It’s full of loving, funny, gory, knowing tributes to the horror movies of yore, with nods and winks to Reanimator, Demons, Hellraiser, Friday the 13th and the Halloween series to name but a few. While some of the stories aren’t quite as strong as the others there’s not a bad one on offer here and each has their own unique take on the genre. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I think you will too.
Scare Package premieres on Shudder UK on 18th June.