“Scare Package,” now available for streaming on Shudder, is a horror anthology film in the tradition of the “Creepshow” movies, “Tales from the Darkside: The Movie,” “Tales from the Hood,” “Trick ‘r Treat,” “Chillerama,” the “V/H/S” movies, “The ABCs of Death” movies, “Southbound,” “Tales of Halloween” and “Nightmare Cinema.”
The movie is comprised of seven stories (“Cold Open” directed by Emily Hagins, “One Time in the Woods” directed by Chris McInroy, “M.I.S.T.E.R.” directed by Rian Johnson staple Noah Segan, “Girls’ Night Out” directed by twin sister production designers Courtney and Hillary Andujar, “The Night He Came Back Again! Part IV: The Final Kill” directed by Anthony Cousins, “So Much to Do” directed by comedian Baron Vaughn and “Horror Hypothesis” directed by Hoosier native Aaron B. Koontz) and a wraparound (“Rad Chad’s Horror Emporium” also directed by Koontz).
My favorite segments are “Cold Open” and “One Time in the Woods.”
“Cold Open” is about a stock background character by the name of Mike – no kidding – Myers (Jon Michael Simpson) who assures things transpire the way they’re supposed to in horror movies whether that means selling a haunted house to unsuspecting buyers, pointing signage for an abandoned asylum the wrong way, performing an attic-based ritual to possess a doll or cutting the power at the most opportune time. Mike, wanting to help rather than harm others, attempts to assist a pair of babysitters (Luxy Banner, Sydney Huddleston) with disastrous results. Writer/director Hagins, who made her first feature, “Pathogen,” at the tender age of 12, gets the anthology off on the right foot by injecting some wonderfully-staged physical comedy into the proceedings.
“One Time in the Woods” is absolutely the best and bloodiest story of the bunch. Writer/director McInroy melds over-the-top body horror prevalent in Troma tripe with slasher flick conventions to make one scream of a segment. There are kills here that had me howling with laughter. I wasn’t familiar with McInroy prior to “Scare Package.” His output up until now has included shorts such as “Bad Guy #2,” “Death Metal” and “We Summoned a Demon.” Per McInroy’s IMDB profile, “His next project should be his first feature film, a horror-comedy with werewolves. He loves werewolves. He also loves dipping chips in dips.” I look forward to seeing it! This dude seems like he knows how to party!
I was a bit letdown by the directorial debuts of bigger names such as Segan or Vaughn, who also appear in their segments. To Segan’s credit, he had the good sense to cast comedian Jon Gabrus from one of my favorite podcasts ActionBoyz, which engenders goodwill. To Vaughn’s credit, his story had the most impressive visual effects and a bruising fight sequence – none of which could’ve been easily accomplished on a limited budget.
The last segment “Horror Hypothesis” is by far the longest of the bunch. This could be a tip of the hat to “A Fistful of Yen” from fellow anthology flick “Kentucky Fried Movie.” It could also be indicative of the fact that director Koontz, his co-writer Cameron Burns and their Austin, Tex.-based Paper Street Pictures are the driving creative and monetary forces behind the project. “Hypothesis” isn’t bad and features a fun performance from cult favorite Joe Bob Briggs playing himself, but its length makes the film feel unbalanced.
Each of these stories is a VHS cassette inserted into a VCR at Rad Chad’s Horror Emporium by Rad Chad (Jeremy King) himself or by new employee Hawn (Hawn Tran). As a kid I spent tons of time in video stores and even worked at one for a bit after college (Family Video represent!) so this motif was a fun stroll down memory lane for me. You can tell these filmmakers have a real reverence for the genre and might’ve even been frightened by the sleeve to “Ghoulies” like your intrepid reviewer was as a tyke. Seriously, I thought one of those critters was gonna emerge from the toilet and bite me on my little bum.