Scare Me: An Awesome Anthology Without the Segments – Shudder Review

A great horror comedy about two writers in a cabin.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Fred (Josh Ruben) is an aspiring writer and struggling actor. He rents a cabin to focus on writing, being driven to the cabin by fellow aspiring writer Bettina (Rebecca Drysdale). Getting stuck with writer’s block, he goes for a run and meets injured jogger Fanny (Aya Cash). It turns out that Fanny is the author of a very popular horror novel. Initially dismissive of Fred, when the power goes out on the mountain, Fanny comes over and the two start to drink. Fanny challenges Fred to a contest of telling scary stories that the two come up with on the spot. They’re briefly joined by friendly pizza guy Carlo (Chris Redd), but the night may end up being scarier than anticipated.

Yes, her shirt has the “got ’em” game hand on it.

END SUMMARY

As I have said before (including last Sunday), I tend to really like horror anthologies. Horror stories are often best when they’re broken down into short segments and it often gives directors their first chance to be in a feature, since many anthologies are made up of multiple films stitched loosely together. One of the most common framing devices is that of people telling each other scary stories, because it allows for a lot of variety in the horror and is a thing that many people enjoy in real life. This film is not that, but is also almost exactly that. In a twist that would not work if writer-director (and Collegehumor alum) Josh Ruben and Aya Cash were not so damned talented, this film does not cut away from the main characters to help us visualize the tales. Instead, we actually watch two very gifted performers act out the stories as they, often collaboratively, come up with them. 

Josh Ruben is great at the exaggerated movements.

In order to make the scenario really work, the two are given some fairly decent character development. Much more than you’d expect from a horror film. Fred is instantly unhappy about Fanny deriding him about not being a real writer, but she constantly proves that she is much more talented than he is. She treats horror as a way to address real social issues through metaphor, while Fred is more focused on spectacle than substance. Throughout the movie, he’s caught up trying to impress her and get her approval, but also can’t take real criticism of his inherent biases and simple ideas. At the same time, when they’re adding to each others’ stories, they seem to really get into it and almost display a bond that goes beyond the fact that they’ve known each other for a day. They come off as genuine people. 

Aya Cash is the Worst, in the best way.

I will add that putting Chris Redd in the film for the end of the second act was brilliant. He’s a breath of fresh air just as the story is starting to get a little stagnant and it pays off. It helps that the characters also decide this is the perfect time to get high and that all of them are really, really good at playing coked out of their mind. It gives the comedy a big kick up which sets the stage for the darker third act. 

Chris Redd on cocaine is… very similar to Chris Redd on SNL

Overall, I really enjoyed the hell out of this movie. It’s such an interesting take on an old premise that showcases the versatility of some talented performers. I’m very impressed with Josh Ruben as a director and I look forward to his adaptation of Werewolves Within.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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The Mortuary Collection: A Top-Tier Horror Film – Shudder Review

Clancy Brown hosts a series of terrifying tales.

SUMMARY

Welcome to the town of Raven’s End. It’s the 1980s and Montgomery Dark (Clancy Brown) is the manager of the local mortuary and has been for decades. A woman named Sam (Caitlin Custer) comes to apply for a position at the mortuary and Mr. Dark agrees to give her a tour. When Sam shows some curiosity about a newly deceased child, the mortician decides to tell her stories about some of the more interesting deaths in Raven’s End, starting from the 1950s to the 1970s. The tales range from encounters with eldritch abominations to a husband whose devotion has run out to a rapist getting his comeuppance. Then Sam tells him her own story, one which might be darker than Montgomery was expecting. 

Wait, this guy works with the dead? Shocking.

END SUMMARY

I am a big fan of horror anthologies, particularly ones like Tales from the Hood where there is a solid framing device and thematically tied-in stories. This movie does that masterfully. All of the stories not only contain thematic elements, but the framing device actually features some level of commentary on them which is worked in mostly organically. Montgomery Dark is someone who is aching to tell these stories, but Sam is largely just there to mock them as boring and overly formulaic (even though they definitely aren’t). 

I mean, this is probably the most formulaic one and you would probably not believe where this is going.

The stories are all different in subject matter and, mostly, in tone, ranging from slightly comic to deeply tragic. Despite that, or maybe because of it, there is no real drop in quality between any of them. They are all great segments, a rarity for even the best anthology films. I do have ones that I favor more, but the fact that I kept thinking “this is the best segment” on both of my viewings speaks to the idea that they really are about equal. As all of the segments take place in Raven’s End, there are even a few recurring characters, mostly a Dr. Harold Kubler (Mike C. Nelson), which makes the stories feel more genuine. 

And the small details that make them just a little more horrifying.

Clancy Brown is basically the perfect casting for the role of the creepy mortician. While he does, in real life, seem to have a very nice personality, his voice and fierce features have usually made him a great villain. In this, he plays that up to the fullest, making himself seem more cartoonish than when he voiced Lex Luthor… but less than when he voiced Mr. Krabs. I honestly hope they make more of these just to give him another chance to play the character.

This man was also one of the only good men in Promising Young Woman.

Overall, this is one of the best horror movies I’ve seen in forever. When it was recommended to me, it was the reason I got a Shudder subscription. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.