It was my last night at the Sundance Film Festival 2020 and I had a dilemma. I had front-loaded my trip with movies and spent the whole of Sunday doing other things, away from a theater. But I had one last ticket, to an 11:45pm show. Was I going to stay up super late when I was already exhausted? With it snowing heavily in the Park City, UT night? Or would I just go to bed? Despite some deep self-reflection, I decided to go, and boy am I glad I did. Josh Ruben’s Scare Me was easily the most fun I had with a movie the whole fest.
“Horror movie” is all I knew beyond the title. The premise concerns two people telling each other scary stories during a power outage in a snowy mountain cabin. That could really lead to anything; maybe it’d be an anthology movie where we’d cut away to different scenes. But what we actually got is literally the two of them telling each other stories, acting them out as they go. That simple, seemingly stagey premise leads to some of the most inventive and humorous moments in a horror movie.
And this is where Scare Me‘s true charm comes in. Though we’re only in one location and there are only two characters telling the story, the filmmaking changes to make the audience feel like it’s really happening. As the werewolf in the first story gets closer, shadows on the wall suggest it’s there; we see the werewolf’s claws as they inch closer to the next victim. Later, the more inebriated the characters become, the more “realistic” it seems.
But despite the humor, this is still a horror movie and there’s some darkness throughout. Fred has anger issues, and we hear bits about his failed relationship that probably aren’t all he says they are. Fanny, likewise, is just toying with Fred, pretending to encourage him in his writing for her own entertainment. This eventually culminates in Scare Me‘s climax, which, while well done and very well acted, feels tonally at odds with the rest of the movie.
Scare Me will debut on Shudder later this year.
Featured Image: Irony Point