Horror can really be an iconoclastic genre. What other type of film has so many meta spoofs of itself, from Scream and Cabin in the Woods to Scary Movie and The Final Girls? What other genre has so many dang sequels, or uses the anthology format so much? What other genre has such a devoted fan base that they don’t have to depend upon pre-existing intellectual property or massive budgets to get butts in seats? All of these things apply to the new film Scare Package II: Rad Chad’s Revenge, an anthology horror sequel to a meta spoof of the genre itself.
Like the first Scare Package, the Shudder original movie from creators Aaron B. Koontz and Cameron Burns tends to prefer laughs to scares, though there is enough gruesome, hilariously over-the-top gore to satisfy horror hounds. This is essentially a comedy movie about the horror genre, and though it draws from the plots of decidedly disturbing movies like Saw, The Ring, and A Nightmare on Elm Street, it does so with tongue firmly in cheek — at least until the tongue is pulled out with pliers and placed into a blender.
Rad Chad’s Revenge Is an Actual Horror Sequel
Most anthology films have a framing device, a wraparound story that encompasses all the short films within it. Sometimes, this barely amounts to anything, like in another recent Shudder film, V/H/S/99; other times, as in Southbound, it can be crucially important and cleverly interwoven into the films. Scare Package II has one of the more elaborate and solid framing devices of any anthology and seems to make up more runtime than the four short horror films put together. For a horror anthology, this framing device is surprisingly deliberate as a sequel. Viewers who haven’t seen the first Scare Package can still enjoy this movie, but some of its humor (and all of its ending) will probably be lost on them.
Drawing loosely from the Saw movies, Koontz’s wraparound finds a group of mourners gathered at the titular Rad Chad’s funeral. Chad, you may recall, was punched through the face in the first Scare Package, and a few of the same characters from the original attend the service for the deceased video store clerk. Before they know it, however, the funeral attendants are gassed. They awaken to find themselves trapped and tormented by a Jigsaw-like figure, forced to play along to a deadly game where they find hints in some of Chad’s favorite horror movies. The audience watches along, and will hopefully get many more movie references than this doomed collection of guests.
Koontz’s narrative frame for the anthologized shorts is such a long, well-cast, bloody blast that it threatens to overwhelm the short films. Scare Package II works inversely from the typical rules of anthology films — instead of the wraparound feeling like a dull, obligatory device that distracts from the short films, the small horror spoofs in this movie feel like a distraction from the main narrative. In the end, that’s probably a good thing, as the main Saw spoof actually benefits from these little breaks in the action, never becoming repetitive or predictable as a result. It’s ultimately able to become an actually good sequel to the first film.
Scare Package Welcomes You to the ’90s
There are only four short films in Scare Package II: Rad Chad’s Revenge, but they’re all very different from one another while still remaining cohesive. That’s because, though they have different writers and directors, a lot of the crew remains the same throughout (and Alex Cuervo’s consistent score remains excellent over the course of the film).
While the first Scare Package playfully satirized ’70s and ’80s horror movies, this sequel takes an interesting, almost more intellectual approach with its short films. As the movie progresses, the shorts seem to celebrate the aesthetics and deconstruct the clichés of the horror genre as it evolved past the 1980s. The appropriately titled first short, Welcome to the ’90s, signals this.
Written and directed by the actress Alexandra Barreto (The Fosters, Mayans M.C., All American), the film delights in the major shifts to horror throughout the ’90s. Two sorority houses stand side by side — the final girls, and the dead girls. The final girls all follow the trope set forth by films like Halloween, where the chaste, conservative girl survives, and the four young women who live there are fittingly named after famous final girls. However, the serial killer doesn’t seem to care about their chastity, nor does he specifically want to kill one of the popular, more modern girls at the other house (named Buffy, of course). It’s a funny set-up that allows Welcome to the ’90s to be almost anthropological in its exploration of horror characters and how the values and tropes of the genre made major changes in that decade.
The Anthology Horror Films Come Full Circle
The next short film, The Night He Came Back Again! Part VI: The Night She Came Back, is itself a sequel to one of the anthology segments in the first Scare Package, titled The Night He Came Back Again! Part IV: The Final Kill. Anthony Cousins and John Karsko’s film takes the meta-comedy to the next level here while parodying the sorry state of horror franchises in the ’90s, when properties like Halloween and Friday the 13th were muddying their canonical storylines and jumping the proverbial shark with all sorts of ridiculous premises. The segment with a foe who refuses to die essentially distills all the madness of late entries in franchises, where writers were grasping at straws.
Next up is the short film Special Edition, written and directed by Jed Shepherd (who wrote the incredible movie Host). Special Edition taps into a horror trend of the late ’90s and 2000s, where films like Pulse, One Missed Call, Feardotcom, and The Ring were mining burgeoning technologies for pure terror. With its mix of quiet but escalating quiet dread and unnerving imagery, Special Edition truly does feel like the kind of J-horror movies from that period, and as a result, is probably the most genuinely spooky segment in Scare Package 2. In it, a group of girls is haunted by the shadow of a boy in an image.
The short film We’re So Dead (from Rachele Wiggins) is the final segment in Scare Package 2. In a weird bit of circular logic that somehow makes sense, the film reflects the popular ’80s nostalgia boom which infected horror and sci-fi in the 2010s, thanks to titles like Stranger Things, The Guest, and IT. The short film, which feels like a marriage between The Sandlot and Re-Animator, follows a gang of kids who stumble across a body in a very Stand By Me way, and then try to resurrect it from the dead with disastrous results. There’s a kind of sad poetry to the fact that, in chronicling the evolution of horror after the ’80s, Scare Package II ends up where it starts, with the genre overcome by nostalgia for the past.
Scare Package II Is Shudder’s Parody of Horror Sequels
Like the first film, the finale of Scare Package II drops the anthology format altogether and just does its own thing for a surprisingly long time. This is where knowledge of the first movie comes in handy, as the callbacks, characters, and narrative all benefit from prior knowledge. It’s a goofy, gory end to the game, where extreme slasher violence meets slapstick comedy to often hilarious effect, all while setting up a potential third Scare Package.
Scare Package II does exactly what it sets out to do — lovingly satirize the ridiculousness of horror sequels in a series of blood-soaked goofs and spoofs. In order to do so, it obviously has to be tacky, schlocky, and unbelievable. Like all good parodies, it must become the thing it mocks. If you’re a horror lover, that’s a very good thing.
From Paper Street Pictures, Scare Package II: Rad Chad’s Revenge is now available on Shudder.