Scare Package II: Rad Chad’s Revenge, an Interview With the Team

Photo Credit: Shudder

Scare Package was a horror anthology that presented affectionate homages to a range of tropes, all contained within a wraparound story set in a video store. If you’ve seen that first film, you might wonder where on Earth a sequel might lead to; said sequel is now due to arrive on Shudder this week, and I had the opportunity recently to dig deep into Scare Package II with its creator and directors.

The complete panel comprised Aaron B. Koontz, creator and writer (along with Cameron Burns), as well as producer and director of the wraparound story; Alexandra Barreto, writer and director of the segment “Welcome to the 90s,” Anthony Cousins, director of the segment “The Night He Came Back Again! Part VI: The Night She Came Back,” Jed Shepherd, writer and director of the segment “Special Edition,” and Rachele Wiggins, director of the segment “We’re So Dead.”

Aaron B Koontz, creator and producer of Scare Package II, along with a number of other roles
Photo courtesy of Fons PR

Aaron B. Koontz

Recognising the importance of another contributor, I opened by asking Aaron how his collaboration with Cameron Burns works. “Cameron was the person who first pitched for me to do an anthology,” Aaron said, “which I did not want to do because I thought there were too many great anthologies out there. Southbound, V/H/S, and now Creepshow is coming back; there’s just so much great content, so how do we cut through this space? Then we settled on this idea because we love the comedies, we love the absurd; the original title was Trope, and the idea was that each segment would subvert different horror tropes. This started when I was frustrated following the first feature that I directed and that cut was never released to the world, and so we said to ourselves, ‘Screw it, let’s just get together with our friends, throw a lot of blood around, I’m going to make what makes me laugh and hopefully someone else out there will laugh along with it.’

“And that was it! Somehow, people liked it, and we got to make a sequel, so Cameron and I have helped to curate this group of wonderful filmmakers who came in to direct segments around the main piece that I did; and we give them some prompts and let them figure out the direction they want to go and we build the world around that, with how those things come in and come out, make it feel cohesive. Something about anthologies that we didn’t like is when you get a segment and then cut away—‘just give me another segment!’—we wanted it to feel like you have these wonderful segments and you come back to a story where you really want to know what’s happening, a fun story to follow. So we tried to reverse engineer that, and make it something.

“Cameron and I have been writing together for fifteen or twenty years by now; we write everything together, and he’s been my creative partner on this. Somehow, we’re here! We’ve made a sequel to the movie that was never supposed to be anything but for our friends.”

The first film was a Package of seven segments, by seven contributing directors; this one had four (with one returning member). I asked Aaron what it was like to herd all these cats. “It’s hard,” he said, “it’s very hard. I think a lot of people think that it’s like, ‘Oh I can make five short films and then I’ve got a movie,’ but it’s not like that. We are making one at a time, assessing those segments and then seeing how they fit into a bigger narrative. Then in order to keep it cohesive, we have the same colourist, the same sound designer, the same composer, so you have to have schedules and it’s like an assembly line to make that work. Alex Euting, our post supervisor and producing partner, was a big part in helping keep that on track, and the chaos of what’s there. Then also, we just don’t have a lot of money, so it’s constantly like, ‘I need someone to do this for us, but I can’t afford to pay your usual rate,’ and then we need to wait for them to become available, then it’s ‘OK, go!’ for two weeks because that’s our only time with them. You kind of have to embrace this hurry-up-and-wait process, and I credit my fellow directors for just rolling with those punches of what a Scare Package movie is like, because it’s not easy, definitely not easy.”

Alexandra Barreto, writer and director of the Scare Package II segment "Welcome to the 90s"
Photo courtesy of Fons PR

Alexandra Barreto, “Welcome to the 90s”

The first segment is a slasher tribute with a focus on the female aspect, especially the Final Girl. I asked Alex Barreto whether she felt that horror fandom has had enough of final girls yet. “They’ve all gone through changes,” she mused. “I could probably make a sequel to ‘Welcome to the 90s’ called ‘Welcome to the 00s’: we have a new set of final girls; they’re moms and professional women. As long as it keeps evolving, I think there’s room for the idea.”

Anthony Cousins, director of the Scare Package II segment "The Night He Came Back Again! Part VI: The Night She Came Back"
Photo courtesy of Fons PR

Anthony Cousins, “The Night He Came Back Again! Part VI: The Night She Came Back”

There was a thought-provoking line in this segment: “Sequels are the life blood of the horror genre.” I asked Anthony Cousins if that reflected his feelings on the subject. “That’s a good question,” he said. “I don’t think so. I think they’ve just become that way because out of all the genres, horror is the easiest to sequel and franchise; so they did that for monetary reasons, not because it led to better stories. But now we embrace it: we embrace the good, the bad, the weird. I don’t think it’s necessary, but we’ve made it that way.

Considering Anthony has now made two connected shorts, I wondered whether he would consider making a feature of “The Night He Came Back Again!” “Oh definitely,” he said. “We’ve talked about way too many directions we could take this, with a feature, with more segments to see what other instalments would have been like.”

Jed Shepherd, writer and director of the Scare Package II segment "Special Edition"
Photo courtesy of Fons PR

Jed Shepherd, “Special Edition”

The next segment looks at the trope (or urban legend) of ghosts found in videos. I was surprised to find Jed in this project and asked him whether he chose Aaron’s call to return after many that must have rung after the success of Host. “Of course! I’m a fan of what Aaron does,” Jed said, “he’s one of the good guys out there. I’ve picked up lots of other people’s calls too, but Aaron is someone who just gets it. I don’t know someone else who works as hard as Aaron does: he’s just out there making film after film after film; and if you know someone like that, you need to hang onto their coattails.”

“Special Edition” reunites the main cast of Host (the Rob Savage-directed film which Jed Shepherd co-wrote), and I asked him whose idea that was. “It was my idea,” said Jed, “and I think Aaron wanted some kind of Host send-up, and we have an element of that, because of the technology, but we mostly riffed on things like J-horror and Ring. I just like working with those ladies, and I’ve worked with them a bunch before and working on multiple projects with them again in the future. They’re good friends, and I speak to them every day, so if I can keep working with them forever, I will.”

Rachele Wiggins, director of the Scare Package II segment "We're So Dead"
Photo courtesy of Fons PR

Rachele Wiggins, “We’re So Dead”

The last short featured some strikingly good teen performers (Adelaide Kennedy, Chinmaya Rao, Nick Annas and Luc Barrett). I think I’ve seen more films focusing on a young cast in the horror genre than in any other, and I asked Rachele if she had a theory about that. “I think it’s that classic thing of the idea of fear stemming from youth,” she said. “Usually, what you’re afraid of as a child follows you into adulthood: the things that shape you then become a tool by which to explore the fears you later have as an adult. Horror is like an opportunity to tell a fairy tale, and often we use children because they are experiencing it for the first time: and real terror is always amplified the first time, so you remember it vividly. Also, there’s a part of us maybe that’s a bit masochistic and we want to torment the youth of today! No, really, I think it just harks back to basic fear, which is so much more raw when you’re a child.”

Full panel

Similarly, I observed that anthology films are prevalent in horror more than in any other genre. I asked all my guests why they felt that might be so. “I think it’s like a proving ground,” offered Jed, “a way to discover new filmmakers. It’s like if you get a selection box at Christmas, you get multiple flavours in one box. This is the perfect selection box for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day with your family, I think!”

But why not other genres too? “You do get anthologies for comedy sometimes,” said Jed, “but you’re right, it’s mostly horror.”

“It’s funny,” said Rachele, “this is the third anthology I’ve done, and I’m also attached to another two. And I really do think it’s an opportunity for people to secretly enjoy a thing that they like: I know a few people who’ve done anthologies who are really big producers, and they’re like, ‘Oh I really want to do a horror, or a comedy horror’, and it’s kind of like this dirty secret! I don’t know why because we all kind of love it; we get dressed up for Halloween and so on. One reason why I was drawn to this anthology project was because it was the first time anyone had presented doing something that was genuinely fun and about the love of horror, embracing it; and you don’t see that very often. Hey, I’m a horror fan, and it’s a good thing, not a bad thing.”

There was definitely a sense of affection in Scare Package II: those shorts weren’t spoofs, but tributes. “This is all about not punching down,” said Aaron. “We’re kind of bear-hugging these things that we love. We can poke fun, but still love them at the same time, and finding that balance was really important. I will say that horror works really well for a quick set-up and payoff: there’s often a little twist in horror films, and you can do that with a quick set-up for a scare. And that can lend itself to short-form filmmaking in a good way. Also, there’s the idea of getting ’round a fire and telling scary stories together: I think that environment can be created in an anthology. It’s just become this new playground: it waned, came and went and I’m so glad it’s back again; and glad that we decided to dip our toes into it in a different way because it’s special.”

Aaron’s mention of the brevity of anthology segments prompted a question. There were seven shorts in the first film, and Rad Chad’s Revenge contained four: I asked what prompted the change of pace. “One thing was that we hadn’t expected the Shudder world to fall in love with Rad Chad’s story as much as they did,” said Aaron, “and seeing people dressed up at Halloween and all that made us realise we had to continue this in some way. Because I created this, I can be selfish and make my stuff longer, and more prominent; and that was fun: ‘I want to do this, I want to do this!’ Also, we learned some lessons from the first film too: the directors did a wonderful job, but there were ways we could figure it out and some pacing lessons that were on me. As long as we’re doing what makes us happy and laugh first, and then it’s about incorporating the feedback the right way. Streamlining a little bit made sense, especially as we understand the tone of the Scare Package universe now; what that means and how we can play with it in a different way. Oh and hopefully not be as long either! The first one was never meant to be that long; even this one was meant to be ninety minutes, and now it’s ninety-eight minutes, but an anthology is always going to be longer than you intend. So it was really important to get that down.”

Scare Package II interview panel

Enough of looking back: it was time to look forwards. I didn’t know if Scare Package II was the end of Rad Chad’s story, but I asked my guests hypothetically, if they were to contribute to another Scare Package, what trope would they choose to play with? They all thought about this and smiled. “That’s difficult,” said Jed.

“I know things I’d want you all to do,” said Aaron.

“I would love to take down the idea of ‘elevated horror,’” said Jed. “I’d like to somehow riff on that and what it means because it’s a very evocative phrase, and if someone outside the horror community says ‘elevated horror,’ then the pitchforks are out. And I’d love to explore why that is: I’d set up a segment as elevated horror and then completely undermine it.”

Having loved Annie, I think Jed could do that!

“With ‘The Night He Came Back Again!,’ it would be really fun to do the legacy sequel,” said Anthony. “Now that we’ve done the H20 revitalisation type thing, it would be time to do the Halloween (2018) reboot thing. Maybe a literal reboot: I’d still want Chelsea in it somehow, but maybe recast Daisy, so she’d show up as a different character, like in Ghostbusters or something. It would be fun to jump back to a prequel too, and see how these stories and characters started.”

“I will say for Scare Package that there are some things we want to play with,” said Aaron, “like we haven’t done anything about exorcism yet, and we’d love to do that. We’ve touched on found footage a little, but I think there could be a found footage segment. Then I’d love to do something with a haunted doll, some kind of Chuckyesque or The Boy style; I just feel it’s something fun that we haven’t touched on yet. Those are things that—if we’re lucky enough to do a third film—I’d love to see in Scare Package III.”

“I don’t know thematically what I’d want to explore,” said Rachele, “but I always wanted to do a found footage in space, and I don’t know how it would be done. You might think, ‘How the Hell would you do a found footage in space?’ because you’d think the technology would be too advanced to have that? Or would you? That’s something I want to do, in a way that’s believable; something grittier than Europa Report. It would be a really challenging thing to do, but any excuse to do sci-fi and build another sci-fi set.”

“Write that and pitch it to me, Rachele,” Aaron encouraged: “I like it.”

“Maybe add zombies in there,” she continued.

“Sure, go for it!” said Aaron.

“I can’t think of anything,” confessed Alex, “although I’m writing something now that takes a horror comedy and puts it in the world of a Hallmark Christmas movie. So, you take all the tropes of a Hallmark Christmas movie that we all know and love and make it a horror movie. That’s something I’m doing.”

Now Scare Package II: Rad Chad’s Revenge is about to arrive on Shudder; I asked my guests how they felt about that. “Excited!” was almost the unanimous answer. Except…

“Nervous,” said Aaron. But everyone loved the first film?

“I’m just always nervous,” he said. “We make a lot of movies and—don’t tell my other director friends—this is my baby. Although this is the lowest budget project we have at Paper Street Pictures, it is the one that we spend the most time on, our personal money goes into it, we’re killing ourselves to add more things in, pay for this song, or do more, you know. It just means something to me on a different level. So, I’m just anxious, hoping people dig it.”

Scare Package II: Rad Chad’s Revenge will be available on Shudder from 22 December. I hope you dig it too.

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Written by Alix Turner

Alix discovered both David Lynch and Hardware in 1990, and has been seeking out weird and nasty films ever since (though their tastes have become broader and more cosmopolitan). A few years ago, Alix discovered a fondness for genre festivals and a knack for writing about films, and now cannot seem to stop. They especially appreciate wit and representation on screen, and introducing old favourites to their teenage daughter.

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