• Through the Trees

Review: Scare Me

Updated: Oct 3, 2020

This playful meta horror comedy starring Josh Ruben and Aya Cash picks apart a male writer's fragile ego

Written by Katherine McLaughlin

“Let’s tell each other scary stories”, whispers bestselling horror novelist Fanny (Aya Cash) to less successful screenwriter Fred (writer-director Josh Ruben) in the Catskills log cabin where they are holed up on a snowy evening by a crackling open fire. They’ve both retreated separately to the wilderness to work on their writing and come together after a power outage for a night of scary stories. And so, the establishing scene is set for these two to test their storytelling skills and battle it out over the course of one night, while filling themselves with booze, coke and pizza.

Fred is a real-life horror story waiting to happen; his barely contained contempt for Fanny is clear from the outset as he rolls his eyes at her achievements on google search, quotes Jack Torrance from The Shining and explains in detail why his ex-girlfriend has recently taken a restraining order out on him. Fanny is on hand with snappy retorts to his whining and self-aggrandising behaviour, challenging his ego, writing ability and fragile masculinity at every turn and even referring to him as a ‘regurgitate hack.’ Supporting turns from Chris Reddie as a hyperactive pizza delivery guy and Rebecca Drysdale as an aspiring writer and taxi driver add to the playful nature of the film.

Scare Me works on multiple levels and to varying degrees of success as it allows its main players to literally tell each other stories, acting them out accompanied by the occasional practical effect. Effectively creepy foley work, intimate lighting and shadow play set the cosy and increasingly tense mood. Much of the film relies on the actors’ ability to add oomph to their stories and Cash and Ruben are up to the task, with a grab bag of facial expressions, strange noises, accents and physical comedy.

First up, is something of a contrived werewolf tale from Fred - which is reworked through harsh criticism, then a vom-inducing, gross-out tale about a grandpa from Fanny. As the film toys with the anthology movie the actors really bring the screenwriting and storytelling process to life through their spirited turns.

Tales from the Cryptkeeper is openly referenced in this witty meta horror comedy and the campfire style stories strike a balance between fun and spooky for the most part. Revealing behind the scenes conversations play out too; the kind you can imagine taking place in writers’ rooms, with editors and producers, or even in boardroom meetings, and being scoffed at or embraced depending on the participants. It’s all depicted with an affection for horror and a darkly funny sense of humour, even if some of the dialogue is infuriating… At one point, Fanny talks about the ‘trodden’ werewolf film, referencing only An American Werewolf in London as influential and dismissing Silver Bullet , and come on now, we all know in every person’s list of great lycanthrope movies, Ginger Snaps would make the cut.

Available to watch on Shudder from 1st October.


Director: Josh Ruben

Screenwriter: Josh Ruben

Cast: Aya Cash, Rebecca Drysdale, Chris Redd

Distributor: Shudder

Running time: 104mins

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