Scare Package was one of the most ridiculous, gory, and intelligently funny horror parodies of the past few years. A Shudder original, the film used the anthology format to string together a meta-movie about video store owner Rad Chad and his obsession with the horror genre. In some ways, the film was a stepping stone for Shudder, an experiment that helped give them the confidence to produce the massively popular original horror anthology film V/H/S/94, which set record viewership for the streaming platform until its numbers were topped by Shudder’s V/H/S/99.
In a kind of circle-of-life move (or circle-of-death, to be more horror-specific), the huge success of V/H/S/94 partly encouraged Shudder to go forward with a sequel to Scare Package, Scare Package II: Rad Chad’s Revenge, which is mostly a bloody, bonkers blast. Like the first film, the sequel is created by horror maestro Aaron B. Koontz and Cameron Burns, with Koontz writing and directing the framing device which organizes the film. The result is a comic cavalcade of horror references, with so many citations that a “spot the reference” drinking game would lead to fatal cirrhosis. Scare Package II is a nasty, blood-soaked comedy of terrors, and Koontz spoke with MovieWeb about its commentary on horror sequels, along with how the film fits into the horror genre’s own interesting history.
Scare Package II Anthologizes Post-1980s Horror
The first Scare Package seemed to focus on ’70s and ’80s cinema and the many tropes in the horror genre at that time (to the extent that its initial title was simply Tropes), using a constantly evolving framing device to comment on the surrounding action. In a certain sense, Scare Package II is more direct — its framing device is essentially a parody of the Saw films and that whole genre, though it certainly references other titles. It’s in the short films themselves that the sequel gets a bit trickier. Directed by Koontz, Alexandra Barreto, Anthony Cousins, Jed Shepherd, and Rachele Wiggins, the anthologized shorts almost tell a story of horror’s evolution over the past three decades.
“That’s absolutely intentional,” explained Koontz. “That’s why the first segment is called Welcome to the ’90s. We’re talking about these final girls and the changes they’re going through, like what happens in Scream, where you can have sex and not die, and still be the final girl, and what this can actually become. We definitely wanted to lean more into the ’90s and 2000s kernel of horror.” He continued:
There’s still some ’80s stuff, because ’80s horror is just in my DNA, so that’s always going to be popping up, and the references are going to come fast and furious either way. But we did want to make a concerted effort to really talk about how horror was evolving at that time, and the types of things that were coming out. There’s found footage references, there’s torture porn, a little bit of J-horror. There was a nice boom in the ’90s and that was a very influential time for me too. So I had a lot to say about it.
Woven into the framing device of Scare Package II (which concerns mourners at a funeral undergoing deadly games of survival) is almost a literal narrative of horror’s evolution. Moving from the aforementioned Welcome to the ’90s, where former final girls realize that the rules no longer apply (with help from a character named Buffy, of course), Scare Package II travels through a chronology of subgenres — the very late-stage embarrassments of horror franchises in the ’90s (like the ninth installment of Friday the 13th), J-horror films and movies inspired by new technologies, the ’80s nostalgia craze of Stranger Things, and even the so-called elevated horror genre. Regardless of the subgenre, Scare Package II embraces horror in “a bear hug,” as Koontz calls it, playfully ribbing the genre it loves so dearly with a wacky, nasty homage.
Aaron B. Koontz’s Unified Theory of Horror
Horror is a unique genre in many ways. Practically no other genre has so many sequels (and anthology films), not to mention so many meta-comedies deconstructing its own tropes. For Koontz, these things seem to be tied together. Films like Cabin in the Woods, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, or Scream exist as a response to the genre itself and its overemphasis on sequels and clichés. Koontz has a kind of grand unified theory of horror that explains this, something which is also subtly present in Scare Package II and its own delightfully morbid commentary on the genre.
“I think what happened was this,” began Koontz. “When horror hits, especially in the late ’70s, early ’80s, it was so successful but immediately became derivative. There was so much money to be made, especially in the ’80s VHS boom, where you could pop out these direct sequels, and you had deals where you were in profit before the movie was ever made. So people jumped at that. Then there was also this weird thing, getting into copyright law.” Koontz continued:
A franchise was owned, and the only way to keep ownership of that franchise was that you had to make sequels, and they had a certain time period to do it. Hellraiser was a great example of this, where the rights holders of that had to make these movies to keep the rights. And what happens is, it becomes very derivative. They’re pumping them out so fast. Even the Saw movies, it was like, you have to make one every Halloween? […] So I think that just makes it ripe for commentary and things that you can kind of poke fun at.
A Scare Package Sequel About Horror Sequels Themselves
This is not to say that Koontz condescends to horror sequels in any way. “There’s something really fun about what those horror sequels were, and I think those tropes just become their own thing,” explained Koontz. “I was exposed to horror via horror sequels. I didn’t watch the original Friday the 13th first. I didn’t watch the original Nightmare on Elm Street first — I watched a sequel, and then kind of came back to understand the canon of a franchise. So there’s a different approach to that, and I think that’s why the tropes are so ingrained in what some of us think of these horror movies, and it comes out in commentary.”
Like the first film, Scare Package II deconstructs the clichés of horror, especially in sequels, but does so with that same “bear hug” mentality. Despite its hilariously over-the-top gore, this isn’t a wickedly vicious satire; instead, it parodies aspects of something Koontz clearly loves. “I mean, the original title of the first Scare Package was Tropes, but then I was like, well, the title has to also be a trope,” continued Koontz. “So we’re leaning into it in every way that we possibly can, and hopefully finding a way that’s not punching down and saying it’s dumb. It’s more like, okay, there is a business to [horror sequels], but there’s still heart and fun in it. How do you comment on something that’s ridiculous, but you’re still kind of loving it at the same time. I mean, I have a Friday the 13th Part IV tattoo on my arm, and that movie is ridiculous, but in a wonderful way, and I love it. So it’s finding those balances.”
Other Friday the 13th sequels are similarly tattooed across the aesthetic of Scare Package II as a whole. “Almost all of our references are sequels, because again, that’s the trope that I wanted to kind of tackle,” said Koontz, who lists A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors as possibly his favorite sequel of all time.
Scare Package and the Death of Gatekeeping
While Koontz is always busy producing films (along with directing his own, like the excellent Camera Obscura), he obviously has a lot of love for Scare Package. Part of that love stems from the fact that the movies influence people to seek out the films which are being referenced; culture is a virus that way, with art and entertainment becoming contagiously spread through the vessels of fun amalgamations like Scare Package II.
“What is really working for me in Scare Package,” said Koontz, “is that you can watch this with someone else, and maybe the person you’re watching with is not a diehard horror fan. And you’re both still laughing, you’re both enjoying it, but then they see you, and they’re like, ‘Why are you laughing so hard at this moment?’ And then you explain, ‘Oh, that’s actually from this movie,’ and the next thing you know, maybe you two are now watching that movie. So now, I’ve recreated me as a 17-year-old, working at the video store, saying, ‘You have to watch this.’ Now I’ve just gotten more people to watch other horror films, and I think that’s a really special thing.”
In this way, Koontz and Scare Package II encourages the death of gatekeeping, a term that refers to often toxic fandoms where access and discussion are controlled and limited by the so-called ‘true’ fans. It’s an elitist sensibility that Koontz aims to take down with the Scare Package movies. Charging at the gates, these are his wild love letters to horror, and they’re meant to be read by all.
Scare Package II: Rad Chad’s Revenge will be available on Shudder on December 22, 2022.