Like a visit from an old friend, “Scare Package 2” delivers more anthologized horror fun — a second helping just as tasty as the first.
They say that a really great gift keeps on giving. And sometimes, a gift can be so good you can only hope that someone tries to replicate the experience one day. That’s what producers Aaron B. Koontz and Cameron Burns inadvertently set out to do when they first released their 2019 horror anthology film Scare Package.
In its way, Scare Package wasn’t unlike many other successful anthology films that had come before it, including Creepshow (1982), Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990), Trick R Treat (2007), V/H/S (2012), and more.
But Scare Package would deliver by going further than other films of its kind had gone.
Since the earliest days of anthology horror films, the production logistics hadn’t varied much from movie to movie. An anthology film will traditionally be composed of four short films or anecdotes with a framing story that both introduces and concludes the anthology. Not to be outdone, Koontz and Burns opted for a total of eight short films, with two of them serving as framing stories.
Their production was clever, professional, sleek in its SFX, and an homage to the recognizable staples of horror filmmaking. And its sequel arrives just when we needed it to do more of the same.
Scare Package II: Rad Chad’s Revenge returns viewers to the world and characters first made so creatively unique in the original film.
It once more pays irreverent respect to familiar horror tropes – “trope”: that word so reviled by Joe Bob Briggs – while developing a distinctively entertaining mythology of its own.
Picking up shortly after the conclusion of the last film, Rad Chad’s Revenge finds ‘final girl’ Jessie (Zoe Graham) and an assorted cast of the community (including horror scream queen Linnea Quigley) attending the funeral of local horror figurehead “Rad” Chad Buckley (Jeremy King).
But when Chad’s death inspires a mysterious adversary to threaten the funeral attendees with an elaborate menu of deadly Saw-like games, the guests are tasked to work together in order to both survive the games and discover the identity of the mastermind behind them.
The same ingredients that made the original SCARE PACKAGE so entertaining are utilized here as well, but that isn’t meant to suggest that the filmmakers haven’t also baked some originality into the production.
The screenwriting provides the entire cast equal opportunity to develop a bit of sympathy on the part of the audience while also providing each actor the spotlight by which to dominate a few moments or more in an ensemble team of performers.
Clearly, the audience’s attention is captured by Graham – the final girl who drives the film’s pathos – and King, by the very nature of his performance alone, chews the scenery.
But the remaining core actors are also given ample opportunity to demonstrate their well-timed and perfectly-toned sense of humor.
Meanwhile, the other “members” of the cast who round out the production are not flesh and blood actors but cinematic references to other horror films themselves – also composed of flesh and blood.
A number of your favorite horror movies – new and old – fuel the horrific humor of the film here.
Friday the 13th. Evil Dead. A Nightmare on Elm Street. [REC]. Hellraiser. Halloween. And Halloween II. And Kills. And Ends. They’re all here.
Even Three Men and a Baby manages to drive the film’s tenor.
And like the original film, Rad Chad’s Revenge possesses a variety of narratives to keep the production from getting repetitive.
In the first vignette, two sorority houses – one populated with final girls and the other populated with the stereotypical female victims of slasher films – are besieged by Tony, the masked killer. But when Tony arrives to decimate an entire house, the final girls suddenly find themselves the fated targets for the night unless they can somehow manipulate the expectations of a slasher film and thereby survive.
Then, in one of the movie’s many parodies of the Saw franchise, abducted players must play and win a game of poisonous beer pong. And later still, some 12-year-old friends discover a body in the woods and attempt to reanimate it.
There’s no shortage of creativity when it comes to the film’s individual stories that illustrate the filmmakers’ reverence for genre films, and that creativity is tested by the effective SFX that brings the narratives to gory, gooey life.
Throughout the movie, viewers will be reminded that the production value surpasses many other independent genre films.
Some viewers may find the sequel’s stories to be a bit more abbreviated than those developed in the original film, sometimes at the expense of creatively winking at the horror franchises they parody or reference.
In Scare Package, the vignettes were imbued with a singularity even when they played upon genre tropes.
Here, the name of the game of Rad Chad’s Revenge seems almost entirely one of nudging the ribs of those films that have inspired it. And for a moment or two, it may feel as if the movie isn’t doing too much that is genuinely new from the original – that is, until the production’s surprise ending.
(For some, that ending won’t come as a surprise. For the rest, it shouldn’t have.)
Like the ways a sequel film must discover inventively fresh ways to destroy Jason Voorhees, Rad Chad’s Revenge goes somewhere unique in ensuring that the film’s credits roll with some sense of distinctive conclusion.
It may even wink one last time with the suggestion that we haven’t seen the last of these filmmakers and future Scare Packages.
Ultimately, the strength and fun of the film result from the way it, like all horror movie sequels, allows the audience to visit again with those creators, characters, and ideas that made the previous film such a treat.
The stories themselves give viewers a chance to hilariously spend time – in imaginatively new ways – with the flourishes of horror that made the original Scare Package such a delight.
A number of the original cast members are glimpsed here and there for Rad Chad’s Revenge.
It plays out like a surprise visit from an old friend.
Even when the entire cast of the 2020 lockdown horror film Host stars in a story about some friends who accidentally invoke an ancient creature, Scare Package II is an opportunity to attend again a cinematic White Elephant gift exchange party that could send you home with any one of an assorted variety of presents at the end of the evening.
You never knew what was in store, and that was precisely the point. It’s what made those particular parties fun in the first place.
You may not go home with a gift that you ultimately wanted, but it was the gathering together for the exchange itself – with some familiar faces and some irrepressible fun – that you needed.