Saturday, August 12, 2023

#2,922. Scare Me (2020) - Random Musings


One main set.

Two (briefly three) characters telling scary stories.

Writer / director Josh Ruben took a minimalist approach to Scare Me, a film that would have worked just as well as a stage play. And yet it’s a top-notch horror outing. Listening to its characters as they attempt to frighten one another with various tales of the macabre not only generates tension, but also makes this 2020 movie one of the most unique horror anthologies of all-time.

Hoping for a little peace and quiet as he pens his first book (a werewolf story), wannabe writer Fred (played by Ruben himself) sets up shop in a remote cabin. To clear his mind when writer’s block sets in, Fred goes for a walk, during which he meets Fanny (Aya Cash), who is staying in the cabin right across from his. It turns out Fanny is also a writer. In fact, she’s the author of Venus, a best-selling horror novel.

When a storm knocks out the power, Fanny pays Fred a visit, and during their conversation she challenges Fred to try and scare her with his werewolf story.

Thus begins a night filled with one frightening tale after another, with Fred and Fanny – separately and in collaboration - spinning yarns of terror, each more nerve-racking than the last.

For a movie like Scare Me to work, the actors had to be on top of their game, and both Ruben and Cash were up to the challenge. Ruben plays Fred as a bit of a sad sack, a guy trying to turn his life around who is more than a little threatened by Fanny’s success. Cash is even better as the brash, confident Fanny. She spots Fred’s insecurities right out of the gate and goes to work on him, offering unsolicited advice as he acts out moments from his werewolf story. There is a tension between the two that remains tangible throughout, but they feed off of it, and use it to generate even scarier stories.

It's a dialogue-heavy film, obviously, but director Ruben utilizes lighting, sound effects, and occasionally even props to give the stories a little life. As Fred ascends a staircase while relating his Werewolf opus, we see not his shadow on the wall, but that of a hulking werewolf. When it comes to the stories themselves, my favorite is one about a Troll that lives in the walls of an office building, tormenting the staff of an Edible Arrangements company.

A third character is eventually introduced: Carlo (Chris Redd), a pizza delivery guy who also loves scary stories. Carlo is a big fan of Venus, and his constant praise of Fanny only adds to Fred’s anxieties. Redd is hilarious in the part, and during his short visit somehow steals the movie from Ruben and Cash. Also good in a couple of brief appearances (at the beginning and the end) is Rebecca Drysedale as Bettina, Fred’s overly talkative driver who also fancies herself a writer.

A funny, sometimes spooky, always fascinating horror / comedy, Scare Me did, indeed, scare me at times, and for a movie that is mostly dialogue, that’s a hell of an accomplishment.
Rating: 9 out of 10

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