A great horror comedy about two writers in a cabin.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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