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Josh Ruben’s Horror-Comedy ‘Scare Me’ Takes Storytelling Back to Basics – Review

Josh Ruben’s feature debut, Scare Me, centers around a struggling horror author Fred (Ruben) as he secludes himself in an eerie cabin in the woods to find some inspiration. There he meets another horror author also looking for inspiration, Fanny (Aya Cash). However, Fanny is nothing like Fred. She’s a young, best-selling author who makes writing for a living look easy—it’s not—and our Fred embodies this hardship perfectly. After a power outage, Fanny invites herself over and the two tell scary stories back and forth to pass the time.

Ever the critic, Fanny points out that Fred’s stories are unoriginal and impractical, but this doesn’t stop him from throwing idea after idea at her. Interestingly enough, his bleak stories are eclipsed by his impeccable storytelling abilities. He gets into character and acts out everything he narrates, wacky voices included. The storytelling is taken to another level when the pizza guy, Carlo (Chris Redd), decides to stay and tell a few stories of his own.

Scare Me trailer has some scary stories to tell in the dark
It’s amazing watching these three get into their groove – Josh Ruben as Fred, (Ruben), Chris Redd as Carlo and Aya Cash as Fanny in Scare Me. (Courtesy of Shudder).

Luckily, Ruben’s writing doesn’t shy away from how clichéd its elements are. Not only is it about two strangers stuck in a cabin without power, but the strangers are writers. For those unfamiliar, many of Stephen King’s popular novels—Misery, It, and The Shining, to name a few—follow a burnout author looking for inspiration while struggling with their own hauntings. It’s a good trope though. The complexities of forcing creativity creates plenty of drama and urgency that wouldn’t be there otherwise. The writing pays homage to this convenient trope by making subtle nods to those novels and even directly referencing King.

However, the writing does drop the ball on some things that have potential. Rather than forming a plot, the writing capitalizes on the rising tensions between the two authors. There are constant themes of jealousy and competition between the pair that would probably work better if they were more subtle and actually acted on instead of just voiced through snide remarks. Jealousy and competition are enjoyable themes, but when they’re the only motivation for the characters it makes the dialogue, drama and everything else that depends on the characters tired. This exhaustion is only reinforced with the static setting of the cabin. But this very well could be the point of the movie; we’re struggling for excitement as much as the characters are.

Sundance horror 'Scare Me' lands at MPI Media Group for international sales  (exclusive) | News | Screen
This just about sums it up. (Courtesy of Shudder)

While this lack of a plot is frustrating at times, it forces further analysis of the characters and what makes stories entertaining. In the case of Scare Me, the way the story is told determines everything.

Ruben, Cash, and Redd all act out their stories with great enthusiasm. It resembles theater, or more appropriately, improv. Given his experience on Saturday Night Live, it’s no surprise that Redd shines with the off-the-cuff, almost skittish humor. Ruben and Cash seem just as much in their element as he. They’re comfortable enough with each other to follow along with the other’s spontaneous lead, immediately adapting to the tone and ever changing plot of the stories. Just as important, they’re comfortable with themselves too. They’re not afraid to get into these stories and use only their bodies to act them out and, they’re great at it! It’s always nice to see creative people be creative, especially when they’re having fun with it.

If you want to see what happens when you put two condescending authors in a cabin with no power, or if you’re just really into telling scary stories, look no further. Scare Me is an interesting showdown between two artists with a nice twist at the end that gives all creative types closure.

But don’t just take my word for it, check out the trailer and see what you think!

Scare Me premieres October 1 exclusively on Shudder.

Nothing but love.

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