13th Oct2020

‘Scare Me’ Review (Shudder)

by Chris Cummings

Stars: Josh Ruben, Aya Cash, Chris Redd Rebecca Drysdale | Written and Directed by Josh Ruben

Well-versed veteran of the comedy scene, Josh Ruben makes his directorial feature film debut here, with Scare Me, a Shudder Original, that aims to blend comedy and horror in a new way. Something fresh in a sub-genre that is well-trodden is always intriguing, and it isn’t easy to do, not in an age where it’s fairly rare to avoid walking the same steps and tropes that others have walked before.

Scare Me is something of a stage-play on screen, really. It has a small cast of only four characters, with two of them being the bulk of the film. Fred (Ruben) and Fanny (Aya Cash) are strangers who run into each other whilst renting cabins in the middle of nowhere in order to both focus on writing projects. Fanny is a best-selling and famous horror author who is working on a follow-up to a beloved and highly-praised novel about zombie vampires. Fred is a little less focused, struggling to find his mojo and wanting to write a book but unable to come up with the right kind of idea. A power-cut in the cabin causes the two to hang out together, and with Fanny, a sarcastic, stand-offish and somewhat cocky character, poking at Fred to try to “scare her”, they decide to spend the night telling each other scary stories and attempt to, indeed, scare each other. It’s a fun concept, and the movie becomes a play, with each character acting out stories for each other as they create these ghoulish horror tales. It’s funny, odd, clever and acted very well. It’s the acting, in fact, that stops the film from becoming a tad tiresome or tedious, with Ruben and Cash both putting in top notch dramatic and comedic performances with some very funny dialogue along the way. I liked both characters and thought the whole film was a fantastic idea.

The other characters, a cab driver and a pizza delivery guy, spend only a handful of minutes in the movie, but are both relevant to how things go, and are enjoyable characters in their own rights. This movie, though, belongs to Cash and writer/director Ruben. It looks good, yet doesn’t require much of a budget because it’s mostly two people talking to each other, and the music, sound design and everything else seamlessly work in unison to create a unique and enjoyable comedy horror. It’s more comedy than horror, sure, but the nods to horror films of the past, from American Werewolf in London, to The Shining, to Halloween, will get a chuckle and a grin from most horror lovers.

It aims to look at feminism and toxic masculinity at times, and perhaps fails to do so in any meaningful way, but aside from that it’s a film that steps outside the box and does something successfully different. I believe some will be agitated and disappointed by the minimalist manner of Scare Me. Don’t expect explosions, gore, ghosts, zombies or any real traditional horror sequence, because that isn’t what this is about. It’s a couple of strangers who, with increasing agitation towards each other, tell scary stories around the campfire. Instead of a campfire, however, there are bottles of wine and beer, lines of blow and slices of vegetarian pizza. A fun and original flick, I think this will be loved by some and cause others to scratch their heads. I, personally, think it’s damn cool.

**** 4/5

Scare Me is available to watch on Shudder now.

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