Death says Scare Package II is an effective satirical critique of the horror genre that audiences are unlikely to have seen in a very long time.
[THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS]
On the surface, Scare Package II: Rad Chad’s Revenge is just another entry into the long line of horror anthologies that have proved to be popular in recent years. Viewers would be right to expect it to be what is typical of this kind of film: over-the-top characters, lots of screaming, and plenty of gore, garnered with a hearty serving of comedic suffering for our viewing pleasure. Yes, the film is all these things — for the most part.
Unlike anthologies that came before, Scare Package II comes together to convey something greater than its individual parts can alone. Be it intentional or not, the film functions better as a nonsensical and satirical indictment of the horror genre than, as a horror-comedy, an anthology, or a sequel. Directed by Aaron B. Koontz, it is obvious from the outset, for better or worse that Koontz is obsessed with the horror genre. He does not spare the viewer the burden of his obsession either — the film is not for the horror uninitiated. There are so many references to horror canon and tropes that even the most seasoned fan may struggle to catch them all. It’s a film by horror fans for horror fans.
Scare Package II opens in the aftermath of Scare Package (2019) at the funeral of titular ‘Rad’ Chad Buckley (Jeremy King), with several returning characters in attendance including Jessie Kapowski, the lone survivor of the Devil’s Lake Impaler’s recent killing spree. Things quickly descend into chaos as the attendees are captured by an unidentified foe and forced to play deadly games, à la the Saw franchise. This narrative encompasses most of the film, with the contributing segments acting as short intermissions to the pacing of it.
Featuring four segments, the shorts begin with Alexandra Barreto’s Welcome to the 90s, starring Revealer’s Shaina Schrooten is an examination of the transition of women in horror from needing punishment for embracing their sexuality during the 80s (Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street) to finding empowerment in that same sexuality in the 90s (Buffy the Vampire Slayer). The segment conveys its points effectively, if not in the most obvious manner, and sets the stage for additional meaningful critiques of horror tropes later in the film.
Anthony Cousins directs The Night He Came Back Again! Part VI: The Night She Came Back, a sequel to a sequel inside of another sequel, which will probably get another sequel, because, as we are reminded, “Sequels are the lifeblood of the horror genre.” There’s a missed opportunity here to examine why a ‘horror sequel’ is almost contradictory, but Cousins wisely sidesteps the larger issues and effectively critiques the tired serialization that plagues so many horror franchises.
Jed Shepherd, writer of the wildly popular Zoom horror film Host (2020) directs Special Edition, a segment that features the return of the Host cast and stars Jemma Moore. A group of women on the hunt for a ghost of a child who was killed by falling on swords on the set of Three Men and a Baby (1987) according to an urban legend that began circulating in August 1990. Shepherd’s effective use of light, obfuscation and CGI makes for the only segment in the entire film to stray from comedy into actual horror. More importantly, he asks the question we’ve all been wondering for decades, “Who the fuck is Ted Danson?”
Rachele Wiggins rounds out the selected offerings with We're So Dead, written by Koontz and Cameron Burns. It’s an ode to Stephen King film adaptations like Stand by Me (1986) and Pet Sematary (1989) with a side of The Fly (1986) and Re-Animator (1985). Of all the contributing segments, Wiggins most closely mimics the overarching absurdity and nonsense of the main narrative. The segment plays out in such a ridiculous fashion that makes one wonder if the kids on the set of these films are going to be okay or if they are going to keep weird things in their fish tanks years from now.
There are some issues with Scare Package II’s execution: the pacing in some scenes drags and for every reference intended as a nod to horror fan solidarity, there is a dialogue that almost makes audiences want to go watch the films referenced instead. None of the characters evoke attachment or concern and many of the actors feel detached from the urgency of their predicament. The film is not entirely successful as a horror-comedy either. A lot of the jokes get lost in themselves or esoteric references. Koontz tries to rescue these moments with a gratuitous injection of gore and violence, but these seem like transparent attempts to make us forget how they were just laughing. There are a few humorous moments, but these are sparse and likely won’t land for some viewers if a horror film reference is missed.
Scare Package II is more aptly described as horror-nonsense or horror-satire if such sub-genres exist. It is so shameless in its self-awareness, so willing to break the fourth wall, and so absurd in its devices, that it ends up subverting its very subject matter. Which forces us to examine the irrationality of horror itself. At times, the film would have made even Lewis Carroll pause.
Throughout the film, Koontz concedes that horror is tired, predictable, and mostly rehashed from the glory days of the 70s and 80s but at the same time attempts to comfort weary horror fans by saying what we already know, “Yes, they could have just gotten in the car and drove away the whole time, and, yes, Laurie could have run out of the house instead up the stairs, but isn’t it just better that she didn’t? They may be idiots, but they are our idiots, right?”
In the end, the film comes together to be something more than even the filmmakers intended. By unconditionally embracing the horror genre, faults and all, it manages to reinvigorate the audience’s suspended disbelief and remind them why they became fans in the first place. Scare Package II is an effective satirical critique of the horror genre that audiences are unlikely to have seen in a very long time.
Scare Package II: Rad Chad's Revenge is now streaming on Shudder.