Scare Me

★★★★

“Scare Me” (now available for streaming on Shudder) isn’t the movie I was expecting it to be, but that’s not an entirely bad thing. Despite being on Shudder, the picture is not really a horror flick and hews far more towards humor. Truth be told, “Scare Me” could easily be a play and in many respects feels like an improv show.

Fred (Josh Ruben – a writer, director, producer and performer on “CollegeHumor Originals”) has left the city, gone upstate and rented a cabin in order to focus on his writing (a multigenerational werewolf action-horror saga) after a bad breakup. While out for a run he meets Fanny (Aya Cash of “You’re the Worst” and “The Boys”). She too is a writer … one of the successful variety … her zombie novel “Venus” has been hailed as the greatest piece of horror fiction ever written and sold a metric butt ton of copies. Fanny too is on a writing retreat and renting a nearby cabin … a bigger, nicer one.

Later that evening the power goes out. Fanny seeks solace in Fred’s smaller shack. They make a fire and talk craft. Fanny chastises Fred’s clichéd concept. Ultimately the gauntlet’s thrown down to, “Scare me!” The duo takes turns telling their best terrifying tales.

Normally, this is when the movie would turn into an anthology picture with different actors and locations being employed. Not here. Ruben and Cash employ various accents and facial expressions in acting their stories out soup to nuts. If their characters load or fire a gun sound effects are creatively overlaid to convey as much.

The duo becomes a trio when they order a pizza and it’s delivered by Carlo (“Saturday Night Live” vet Chris Redd). He’s a BIG fan of “Venus” and of Fanny herself. He too has tales to tell (something about, “baby scabies”). He puts off his next delivery – they eat, drink, do blow … hell, there’s even a musical number.

Ruben not only acts in “Scare Me” he also wrote, directed and produced it. The fingerprints of his sketch comedy background are all over it – thematically, structurally, performatively. He kills the accents, expressions and body language. (Humorously enough, Ruben’s real life next project is “Werewolves Within.” How’s that for meta?) Cash comes across well too. Her Fanny is smart, snarky and strong. As good as Ruben and Cash are (and they’re very, very good), the movie gets a real shot in the arm when Redd appears. Those who’ve seen “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” know if you put Redd in something it’ll automatically pop. I can simply look at his face and its exaggerated expressions and I’ll laugh. The dude’s just preternaturally funny AF. (He’s actually in another movie I’m reviewing this weekend. Stay tuned!)

“Scare Me” is a deconstruction of horror fiction and flicks that has a lot to say about gender politics, toxic masculinity and the Bechdel Test. Initially, I felt like I was sold a false bill of goods, but much like the Rolling Stones sing, “You can’t always get what you want/ But if you try sometime you find/You get what you need.”

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