Horror and comedy go hand in hand. They’re both genres that focus on the viewer’s empathy to elicit visceral emotions. While one is laughter, the other is fear, and when the two genres come together in a good horror-comedy, we all win. With his directorial debut, Josh Ruben shows how his comedy background expertly pays homage to horror classics, tells scary stories that hit, and ultimately crafts a movie unlike anything I’ve seen before with Shudder Original, Scare Me. Having first premiered at Sundance 2020, the film stars Ruben in the co-lead role with Aya Cash and Chris Redd.
Fred (Josh Ruben), a frustrated copywriter, checks in to a winter cabin to start his first novel. While jogging in the nearby woods, he meets Fanny (Aya Cash), a successful horror author who fuels his insecurities with not only her talent but her smug attitude as well. During a power outage, Fanny challenges Fred to tell a scary story. As a storm sets in, they pass the time spinning spooky tales fueled by the tensions between them. While Fred leans on references to classic horror movies with werewolves and tropes, Fanny takes her stories to places that Fred doesn’t suspect. But as everything unravels, drugs come into play, and the stories get weirder. Fred is forced to confront his ultimate fear: Fanny is the better storyteller. The stakes are raised when they’re visited by a horror fan (Chris Redd) who delivers levity (and a pizza) to the proceedings.
The premise of Scare Me is simple. Two people tell scary stories during a power outage at a remote cabin while jealousy takes hold. But it’s what Ruben does with this simplicity that makes the film so fun and perfect to kick off the Halloween love this October.
Scare Me is clever in more ways than one. With a solid comedy background, Ruben brings meta and comedy together in such a way that he demonstrates not only a deep knowledge of the horror genre but a love it as well. This film is, at its heart, a love letter to storytelling. By mapping small effects work from voices to a creepy hand and more onto the stories being told, Scare Me takes simple campfire stories to a new level. Instead of just a story about a creepy old man told in Cash’s voice, the effects team layers on an effect that makes her already exaggerated and creepy imitation of an old man all the more spooky. These small details easily lend to endless camp, but instead, Scare Me remains grounded and comedic without leaning too far into eccentricities. In fact, the beauty of the film comes in the tension between Fred and Fanny that builds in layers as the stories grow more uncomfortable and truths begin to reveal themselves.
As Ruben’s feature debut, Scare Me is hilarious and dark, ending up in places you don’t expect. Ruben shows a solid understanding and love of horror tropes and the cabin in the woods in such a way that he knows exactly how to subvert them. Additionally, the dark humor hits on current topics, absurd premises, and more and does so with class and ease. Honestly, Scare Me will remind fans of horror. Even more so, it will bring back the nostalgia of telling stories with your friends, in the dark, and in your best scary voices.
Scare Me is available exclusively on Shudder now.
Scare Me will remind fans of horror. Even more so, it will bring back the nostalgia of telling stories with your friends, in the dark, and in your best scary voices.