10th Jun2021

‘Scare Us’ VOD Review

by Jim Morazzini

Stars: Tom Sandoval, Michael C. Alvarez, Michelle Palermo, Richard Lippert, Ethan Drew, Brad Grubenhoff, Charlotte Lilt, Jason Wiechert, Jennifer Jones Nesbit | Written by Will Hirsch, Ryan Henry Johnston, Charlotte Lilt, Ryan Kjolberg, Jordan Pillar, Carl Jensen IV, Tom J. McCoy | Directed by Ryan Henry Johnston, Charlotte Lilt, Ryan Kjolberg, Jordan Pillar, Carl Jensen IV, Tom J. McCoy

Scare Us, not to be confused with either of the Scare Me films from last year, is a new anthology film set in the small town of Sugarton. A town where a rash of killings has people wondering if the serial killer dubbed Cutthroat has returned. Against this backdrop, a group of aspiring writers gather at Pete’s (Tom Sandoval; Alien Presence, Puppet Master: Axis of Evil) bookstore to read their latest stories. This week’s theme, a story that is not only scary but very personal to the teller.

Diego (Michael C. Alvarez; Expo, The Dark Side of Opulent) passes so the first story, “Night Haul” comes from Naomi (Michelle Palermo; Come Out Fighting). Written by Ryan Henry Johnston who co-directed with Charlotte Lilt, “Night Haul” is a familiar story of a woman (Michelle Palermo) who finds herself trapped in a public storage facility with something not human. In this case a priest (Richard Lippert; Battlefield 2025, Bad President) with a secret he didn’t hear at confession.

Next up is Mikey (Ethan Drew; Krampus: Origins) the youngest of the group and, coincidentally, the sheriff’s son. “Untethered” directed by Ryan Kjolberg who co-wrote it with Will Hirsch, is the story of Daniel (Drew) whose policeman father is acting strangely after investigating the death of a family in what appears to be a murder/suicide. After a coffee break Diego relents and tells his story.

“Dead Ringer” from writer/directors Jordan Pillar and Carl Jensen IV sees a hitchhiker (Michael C. Alverez) running into sinister goings-on at an isolated gas station where Russell (Brad Grubenhoff) is intent on killing what he claims is his wife. Claire’s (Charlotte Lilt; Monster: The Prehistoric Project, Angel of Darkness: The Legend of Lilith) story is the last of the evening’s planned stories, “The Resting” from writer/director Tom J. McCoy. David (Jason Wiechert; Atomic Shark) and Anne (Lilt) move into the house where her mother Judith (Jennifer Jones Nesbit; Emulator) hanged herself. Of course, there’s a dark family secret involved.

As the stories end it becomes clear Scare Us still has a tale left to tell. Director Ryan Henry Johnston and co-writer Will Hirsch keep us “After Hours” for the conclusion of both the evening’s entertainment and the film’s wraparound segment.

I try to keep up on all the upcoming films but Scare Us was one of the ones that slipped past me until I found it while looking for something to watch. And it’s a pity it has such a low profile because it’s a solid anthology. It was obviously shot on a low budget with several of the same names turning up both in front of and behind the camera in multiple segments.

The five segments range from good to excellent and cover a range of stories and styles. All except for the wraparound involve elements of the occult or supernatural and feature some excellent effects, both in terms of gore and creature work. I’m not sure what the creature in “Dead Ringer” was supposed to be, but what we see of it is impressive. As are some of the wounds dealt out in “Night Haul” and with a killer named Cutthroat you know Scare Us’ wraparound will feature at least one good jugular slicing.

For style, I have to give “Untethered” a mention. It’s strange, almost surreal at times, but filled with creepy imagery. I do wish the plot had been a bit clearer but this is the segment of Scare Us most likely to turn up in a nightmare. The transformation of a bookstore into a deadly maze in “After Hours” deserves a mention as well.

**** 4/5

Scare Us is available through Virtual Cinema with a VOD and DVD release of June 29th.

Review originally posted on Voice From the Balcony

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