Between Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, Scream, Cabin in the Woods, Behind the Mask, and many more, one could say that meta horror has become a subgenre in its own right.
Shudder’s latest original, Scare Package, tows this line between meta and downright parody, all while presenting itself in an anthology style that horror is so well known for.
The result is an out of control film that was made by horror fans for horror fans. Some of the vignettes work better than others, but absolutely none of them are boring! So without further ado, let’s take a stab at reviewing each vignette of Scare Package!
Much like the aforementioned Behind the Mask: The Rise of Fall of Leslie Vernon, “Cold Open” does a great job of analyzing horror from the point of view of the villain, portraying him like an ordinary person.
So often, we see the elaborate setups that killers do to scare their victims, and it’s legitimately hilarious to see them crafted in such a mundane manner, as if it’s a regular job. Plus it really humanizes our villain, aptly named “Michael Myers”.
Subverting expectations not only makes for great horror, but it makes for the very best kind of meta horror. Which is why, “Cold Open” remains my personal favorite vignette of the entire movie.
“Rad Chad’s Horror Emporium”
Like many anthology films, Scare Package used this vignette as a wraparound, putting everything into context. Some of the jokes here work, but many come off as “variety show cheesy”, as each little segment is meant to set up another vignette.
Its meta humor merely comes from referencing movie after movie. All that said, being a former video store clerk, this one really spoke me. Many of the conversation these characters have are very similar ones I had many years ago.
Also the job interview scene felt very familiar as my own interview consisted of one main question, “What’s your favorite movie and why?” (My answer was Saw at the time)
“One Time in the Woods”
While this one does contain some beautifully grotesque body horror, its overall tone is more slapstick that satirical parody. However, one could argue that its much deeper than it appears.
On the surface, it just seems like an over the top horror parody with a gory monster at a campsite, however the in which it uses its immense gore to the point of slapstick is similar to that of Sam Raimi in the Evil Dead trilogy and Drag Me to Hell.
I’m not saying it’s quite as good as those classics, but that it evokes a similar feeling and sentiment.
In both a semi-parody of Fight Club, as well as a satirical critique of toxic masculinity, this vignette has some interesting ideas, but it doesn’t always follow through on them.
The idea of angry “meninists” becoming werewolves seems very fitting, but the whole Satanic twist at the end comes out of nowhere kind of detracts away from everything it was doing. That said, it contains the greatest werewolf kill ever via chocolate bar!
“Girls Night Out of Body”
While far less self-aware than the rest of the movie, this story plays out more like traditional horror. But it still serves a fun and supernatural cautionary tale (specific to stealing) that feels very fitting for a short film.
It’s eerie more than it is scary, in a sort of Twilight Zone vibe, and without a doubt, it boasts the most interesting and vibrant production design.
“The Night He Came Back Again Part 4 – The Final Kill”
This title alone calls back to horror spoofs like Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday the 13th. And as its title suggests, this vignette very much feels like it could be a sequel in some other horror franchise.
It feels more like the third act of an existing movie than a whole three act film crammed into 15 minutes, as short films often do. It does a great job of satirizing slasher tropes, particularly that of the final girls’ “necessary virginity”, and it’s a lot of fun. This, along with “Cold Open” are probably the two best stories.
“So Much to Do”
In terms of concept, this vignette is by far the most absurd. We see a couple engaging in deadly combat over the remote, all because of a fear of not spoiling a show they watch together.
For many couples to watch TV together, it’s very relatable, in an extreme humorous sort of way. Admittedly, the only thing it has going for it is this one joke, but for a short film, that’s kind of the point. It wasn’t my favorite story, but it was still entertaining nonetheless.
Serving as the movie’s climax and finale “Horror Hypothesis” takes the meta references and deconstruction of horror, and runs with it to extremes that almost border on cringe-inducing.
While it’s not perfectly constructed, it is clearly a love letter to the genre that I love (and you love as well, if you’re reading this).
It contains a myriad of movie references, and even plays with the “final boy” subversion, in a nice homage to Corey Feldman’s Tommy Jarvis in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter.
However, there’s no way to discuss this without mentioning its amazing cameo from Joe Bob Briggs himself (which was all the more fun for those who watched this along with him on The Last Drive In). Joe Bob grants some genre legitimacy to a vignette that very easily could have lost itself in its own ridiculousness.
As previously mentioned, Scare Package is a movie by horror fans and for horror fans. So casual viewers will probably find it too ridiculous to get into. But for the diehard horror fan, it will most certainly warrant multiple viewings just to catch all the references!
Scare Package is streaming exclusively on Shudder
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