From the Archives: Scare Me is perfect for your next game night

From the Archives: Scare Me is perfect for your next game night

In the interest of getting “hard” copies of my work under one roof, I plan to spend the next few weeks posting the entire archive of my film journalism here on ScullyVision. With due respect to the many publications I’ve written for, the internet remains quite temporary, and I’d hate to see any of my work disappear for digital reasons. As such, this gargantuan project must begin! I don’t want to do it. I hate doing it. But it needs to be done. Please note that my opinions, like everyone’s, have changed a LOT since I started, so many of these reviews will only represent a snapshot in time. Objectivity has absolutely no place in film criticism, at least not how I do it. 

Without further ado, I present to you: FROM THE ARCHIVES.

Originally posted on Cinema76.

I’d love to know if Scare Me was a stage show of sorts before it was ever made into a movie. The IMDb credit lists it as an original script, but the film itself feels like a longform improv game. This is mostly a good thing, as the film has an incredible energy to it, but when it is suddenly tasked with being a movie with a narrative, it stumbles a bit. Just a bit. Small complaint, really, as what Scare Me is trying to say is compelling and handled about as well as can be in this type of packaging, but the film works more as an exercise for its leading actors than anything else. A very, very fun exercise. In fact, watching our leads mug, dance, crawl, and scream through the events of the film had me wanting to play similar storytelling games with my friends if we ever find ourselves stuck without electricity (and really, even with electricity this could be fun).

While staying at a small cabin in an attempt to get away for a while, wannabe writer/actor/anything successful, Fred (Josh Ruben – who also wrote and directed the film) is facing a serious case of writer’s block. After attempting to build on an idea stolen from his chatty rideshare driver, he bangs his fist into the couch and decides to go for a run. While outside he has a chance encounter with another runner, Fanny (Aya Cash). Like Fred, Fanny is a writer, only she is far from a wannabe. In fact, she’s a celebrated author of one of the most beloved horror novels of all time. Fred is star-struck and Fanny couldn’t be bothered. They have a meet/un-cute and part ways. Later in the evening, a storm comes and the entire town loses power. Without a functioning laptop, light source, or imagination, Fred is ready to wallow in his lonely sorrow…until Fanny appears at his door. She, too, is without power and has decided to rope Fred into a fun game.

“Scare me,” she demands, and a nervous Fred is reticent to comply. But Fanny is not someone to be ignored, and she goads him into playing along.

From here the bulk of the film is these two likable assholes exchanging scary stories, complete with act outs, voices, and a few moments of metatextual material, the nature of which could be considered spoilery, so I’ll leave ‘em out. Fanny is a supremely gifted storyteller, while Fred struggles with the exercise. His fragile ego has difficulty reconciling the fact that a woman could be a more talented writer than he, while Fanny’s condescending nature keeps him in a state of emotional defense. It’s this tension that gives us elements of story when the time arrives to do so, but short of small invocations of their initial personality clash, it doesn’t factor in much until the very, very end, at which point it becomes a huge piece of the narrative. So huge that it feels a bit incongruent with the earlier behaviors of the characters. I guess that’s the point, given that this is indeed a horror film, but a little more legwork in the lead up would’ve been nice.

That said, the clash of his ego, her attitude, and a mutual unwillingness to see one another as individuals outside of whatever assumptions they’ve made is a paradigm worth exploring. Ruben’s script is careful to make his characters equally mysterious and ambiguous until which point the doors have to come off and some blood needs to spill. He does quite a marvelous job with it both behind and in front of the camera, and I found myself switching allegiances between Fred and Fanny on a moment to moment basis. By the end, as I imagine was intended, I was made to confront my own biases towards the main characters as well as those present in my real world creative interactions. So even if it doesn’t quite come together for me as a narrative, it seems the message has hit home. Huzzah!


The joy of watching Scare Me is in watching the performers fill nearly the entire runtime with their storytelling game. Both actors manage to show character growth through this process while also telling some really spooky tales. The interplay between them as their relationship grows is just a blast to watch. And a late in the game introduction of a horror-obsessed pizza guy (Chris Redd) enhances the humor even further. Mostly, however, I just wanted to play along, even if I, too, however shamefully, would be intimidated by Fanny’s prowess. Aya Cash makes it all seem so effortless. Her Fanny is such a lively character, exuding a cocksure attitude that produces a bulk of the film’s laughs. She’s so so so funny, and the sweater she wears for the entire film is absolutely killer.

So next time I’m stuck inside and the lights go out, I want to channel Mary Shelley and play the Scare Me game. It could be fun. Perhaps we’ll end up making the next Frankenstein, just so long as nothing scary or dangerous actually happens.

Scare Me is now streaming on Shudder.

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