From writer/director/producer and co-star Josh Ruben comes Scare Me, a semi-meta celebration of the power of great storytelling, as well as a deeply funny examination of both the creative process as well as the current state of gender politics to boot. While its setup and Ruben’s approach might seem overly simplistic on the surface, there are a lot of elements at play in Scare Me, which elevated the experience for me, and I really appreciated how everyone here just goes all in for this quirky horror comedy.
As mentioned, Scare Me’s setup is pretty straightforward, as we follow a struggling writer named Fred (Ruben) to a remote cabin in the woods, where he plans to hunker down and get some writing done, but once he arrives, Fred can’t seem to connect with his creative muses at all. While out on a run, he crosses paths with Fanny (Aya Cash), who just so happens to be the writer behind the best-selling horror novel that became a worldwide phenomenon, and as Fred realizes just who Fanny is, it begins to stir up all sorts of feelings of inadequacies for him.
Later that night, a storm causes power outages in the area, so Fred and Fanny decide to hang out and tell each other scary stories as a means to kill time. But as the night goes on, a seemingly innocent night of storytelling takes a sinister turn, where reality becomes far scarier than fiction ever could be.
Because I’m someone who absolutely adores “talkies” (films that really lean into a heavy amount of dialogue—think Clue or Radioland Murders), as you can imagine, when you have a film that is completely centered on dialogue, Scare Me really tickled all of my fancies. And you might be saying, “Well, yeah, pretty much all movies have dialogue—so what?” but the difference here is that Ruben is using his debut feature to not only shine a spotlight on just how enthralling and powerful dialogue can be, but also uses Scare Me as means to lift up why we love horror-centric stories in particular.
Something else I thought was very interesting about Scare Me is that the film isn’t just Ruben and Cash sitting around a fire talking, but the duo also physically embody the tales they're telling, which I also thought added yet another level to what Ruben was doing here, as both actors just throw themselves into their stories in such a manner that totally reminded me of being a kid again, where you’re just playing with reckless abandon and you have no self-awareness holding back your imagination whatsoever.
Admittedly, there is a stretch of Scare Me where the lively exchanges between Fred and Fanny wind down, which makes for a slight lull, but then Chris Redd shows up as Carlo, the pizza guy, and that’s when the energy begins to pick back up again in the film, giving Scare Me a much-needed shot of adrenaline to carry us through the rest of the film. Another minor quibble I have with Scare Me is that it does feel like the film’s first and second acts are a bit more substantial than its third act, which is where the film leans more into horror and eases up on the comedy, and I must admit that I would have loved to see a bit more of this new direction explored in greater depth, just because I thought that dynamic shift added a new layer to everything that had preceded it.
But as a whole, Scare Me is an absolute delight and a real gift for both horror fans as well as those of us who can’t get enough of hearing a “good story.” In a day and age where it feels like so much of our communication with the world at large happens through technology, Scare Me serves as a great reminder that nothing beats the age-old tradition of sharing a memorable yarn (or two) with others.
Movie Score: 4/5
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