The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Shudder] - SCARE ME | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Shudder] - SCARE ME

scare me review
An aspiring writer and a successful novelist attempt to outdo one another with improvised horror stories.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Josh Ruben

Starring: Aya Cash, Josh Ruben, Chris Redd, Rebecca Drysdale

scare me poster

If the subject of your story is storytelling, you better make sure you know how to tell a good story yourself, and in the case of cinema, you better know how to tell a story visually. The golden rule of all storytelling, but particularly cinematic storytelling, is "show, don't tell." Writer/director Josh Ruben's feature debut Scare Me is all telling and very little showing. It's a lecture on the art of storytelling from someone who doesn't seem comfortable with the medium they're using to tell their own story.

scare me review

Ruben casts himself as Fred, an aspiring but talentless writer who checks himself into a log cabin for the weekend, planning to begin work on his werewolf novel. All he has in place is a crumb of an idea - "Werewolves have guns. Get revenge?" - yet he behaves like a pompous dick to his driver (Rebecca Drysdale) when she outlines a plot of a script she claims would have been perfect for James Cameron. While jogging, Fred bumps into an actual writer, Fanny (Aya Cash), who is staying in the next cabin over. Fanny is the author of a hugely successful zombie novel, but Fred treats her as though she's on the same literary level as himself. Fanny treats Fred with the same sort of contempt he earlier displayed for his driver.

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That night, when the power goes out in the area, Fanny arrives on Fred's doorstep desperate for company. To pass the evening, Fanny suggests she and Fred tell each other horror stories, but Fred baulks at the idea. After some bullying encouragement from Fanny, he gives in and acts out the basic premise of his ill-thought out werewolf tale. Fanny then elaborately spins a ghost story. Later a pizza deliverer, Carlo (Chris Redd), joins in on the action, leading to a twist ending that's quite clever in itself but by no means worth slogging through 105 minutes.

scare me review

10 minutes into Fred's performance of his werewolf tale I found myself thinking "Is this what the entire movie is going to be - two characters simply telling us stories?" That's essentially what we have here. Scare Me isn't a movie so much as a filmed play, but even on stage it would struggle to hold your attention. The problem here is that the stories told by Fred and Fanny just aren't engaging or original enough to keep our attention. Fred's story is purposely meant to be clichéd and clunky, but Fanny's ghost story is supposed to convince us of her talents as a storyteller - it simply doesn't!

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I actually found Fred's tacky werewolf yarn a little more involving as despite its awfulness, Fred/Ruben at least put some effort into acting it out. This gets to something that Scare Me doesn't seem to understand, that a story isn't as important as its telling. Broken down as a story itself, Scare Me suffers from major pacing issues, as it's too in love with its own words. Watching Fred and Fanny act out their hackneyed tales is like being trapped in a cabin with a pair of obnoxious, coked-out improv students. Sure, the movie acknowledges that these aren't people we're supposed to warm to, but simply watching two people act like dicks to one another for close to two hours isn't entertaining in itself.

scare me review

The introduction of Carlo is a puzzling aside. At first it seemed like introducing an African-American into this dynamic was set to divert Scare Me into the territory of race-tinged dramas like The World, The Flesh and The Devil or The Quiet Earth, his presence unsettling our white male protagonist, but this never manifested itself. You might think Carlo would emerge as a gifted storyteller who puts both Fred and Fanny to shame, but this never transpires either, despite his casual remark about having attended Oxford. Carlo simply shows up for 15 minutes, hangs out and disappears, his presence a glaring missed opportunity to give the audience a character we might empathise with.

Scare Me is on Shudder from October 1st.

2020 movie reviews