The down on luck Fred and a celebrated Fanny are both horror writers. Well, sort of. You see, Fred is an aspiring horror writer with unpretentious stories acted out by his creativity whereas Fanny is the hot, popular artist who just came out with an acclaimed novel everybody is talking about, even Fred. When their paths cross on a remote, snowy getaway during power outage, they consolidate to one cabin to stave off boredom by telling each other off the cuff scary stories, acting out every minor detail to flesh out the macabre tidbits in order for a good scare. As the night carries on and the stories become more involved, Fred’s night has been a rare highlight in recent days and now that day is on the brink of breaking, Fred has one more emotionally-driven scary story to tell the weary Fanny.
You wanna see something really scary? No, not the line from that wraparound story with Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks driving late a night in “The Twilight Zone: The Movie,” but rather really see a scary story come to life before your eyes with enthusiastic performances between two horror writers? Josh Ruben’s “Scare Me” does just that with the filmmakers’ 2020 horror-comedy hit. Ruben, whose latest comedy genre film, “Werewolves Within,” has been a critic success, writes and directs a petite cast packing a powerful punch pitched perfectly more so than this mouthful attempt at an awfully awkward alliteration. “Scare Me” is also produced by Ruben along with Alex Bach and Daniel Powell under a conglomerate of productions companies including Artists First (“Hell Baby”), Last Rodeo Studios (“Save Yourselves!), and Bach and Powell’s Irony Point with Shudder distributing.
Ruben not only writes, directs, and produces his film, he also co-stars as Fred. With this Andy Serkis like looks, motions, and vocal talents, Ruben is a master at amplifying impressions and slapstick from the beginning as Fred using his unrestraint, and probably unstable, imagination to try and write a bestselling horror novel to help him get out of a life funk. Then, their is Aya Cash, who I have personally adored since her villainous role on Prime Video’s “The Boys.” Much like that role’s personality of the super-sadist Storm Front, Cash just dons snarky assertive woman to perfection as she continues the trend by embodying bestselling new age novelist Fanny with such. Fanny downright emancipates…I mean, emasculates…Fred at every chance and at every step along the way despite her warming up to Fred’s kooky lackadaisical first impressions with a side dish of caution for those who yearn for story ideas. Ruben and Cash bounce incredibly well off each other to the point of credibility between the dynamic and the dynamic is far from being a romantic love interest but more so an unlikely best friend; a best friend who constantly proclaims white male privilege whenever the opportunity presents itself. The funnies also keep on coming, especially mixed into the dialogue details, that are sharpened by Ruben and Cash’s timing and delivery telling their individual stories and the reactions each have during them, but then blend into that batter of bust-a-gut with comedian and “Vampires vs. the Bronx” actor Chris Redd, consider your every funny bone in your body rigged for explosion with the trio’s insanely charismatic skits and a musical number about a Devil possessed pop star to die for. Bringing up the rear of the comedic cast is “Key and Peele” writer Rebecca Drysdale.
If you had told me that “Scare Me’s” premise was two writers telling each other scary stories during a power outage, the film would have been near the forgotten bottom of my must-watch list with the inane dancing of “Orgy of the Dead” and the prosaic “Paranormal Activity 4.” After watching the film, all I have to say is this, Mr. Ruben, please accept my heartfelt apology for manifesting one single brain cell of doubt as “Scare Me” is the five-star movie everybody needs to see. I am not worthy. The idea behind the movie is simple, yet novel, that never ceases to peak as Ruben’s film perpetuates a steady incline of sharp-witty dialogue, an involved and spot-on sound design to create the stories’ allusions, and a trope-less ending that fits “Scare Me’s” unique, unbridles nature without being a grandiose end-all finale. Without the punctuating special effects, Ruben definitely curved a workaround with smart dialogue, entertaining writing, and with a cast who couldn’t sell the idea any better. The work lies severely on the shoulders of Cash, Redd, and Ruben and without them, “Scare Me” would probably been acerbically be retitled as “Bore Me” under the breath of many frustrated genre fans. Also, just because there isn’t knock-your-socks-off special effects, that doesn’t mean there was zilch as Fred, Fanny, and Carol (Redd) enact each stories, a slither of their dread-addicted imaginations comes to fruition like window glimpses into their minds and, damn, they can really sell their fear-stroking dark fantasies by telling classic tale spinoffs that could parallel cult favorites, many that were namedropped throughout the 104 minute runtime. “Scare Me” is without a doubt pure love of the genre and a tinseling homage to the macabre.
Better late than never, they say, in viewing Josh Ruben’s bewitching “Scare Me” on UK Blu-ray distributed by Acorn Media International. The region 2, PAL encoded BD25 presents the film in 1080p on a streaming platform dictated 2:1 aspect ratio. Aside from the bookend snowy landscapes and exteriors, much of the setting is located inside the compact two story cabin in the woods in which cinematographer Brandon H. Banks breaks into his debut feature with getting the precise angles to reassure and reaffirm Fred and Fanny’s telling of scary stories. As far as visuals go, the digital recording compression seems to hold up on the BD25 while still flaunting a good amount of bonus material and an English language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound. No issues here with the audio with phenomenally clarity in the diversity of sound bites and in dialogue even with Ruben and Cash’s modifying their voices for story characters. There isn’t a lot of actions to hone on and rein in the depth, but with this type of story inside, as aforementioned, a compact cabin, depth won’t make or break the audio report card. Special features include a director and cinematographer commentary, short interviews with the Ruben and Cash that run through their favorites things inside the horror genre, a behind the scenes photo gallery, a Make Cool Shit Podcast, outtakes, and “Feel the Music, Feel the Light” music video. I’m always up for a good tale of Fright and “Scare Me” slashes all the boxes with a traditional layout themed by envy and has a cast that illuminates each and every scene with funnies and fear.