Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Josh Ruben, Aya Cash, Chris Redd, Rebecca Drysdale, Lauren Sick
Written by: Josh Ruben
Directed by: Josh Ruben
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 104
Date: 10/02/2020
IMDB

Scare Me (2020)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Blood Run Told

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

It goes on way too long and ends up pretty much where we expect, but the playful scary movie Scare Me is still great fun most of the time, with energetic comedic performances and clever sound and camerawork.

Ad man Fred (Josh Ruben) rents a snowy, remote cabin so he can write his first screenplay, a werewolf movie, in peace and quiet. While jogging, he meets his neighbor, Fanny (Aya Cash), who has already published an acclaimed horror novel, and is working on her next. When the power goes out (and the battery on Fred's computer is spent), Fanny shows up at his door, and suggests that they pass the time by telling scary stories.

She orders a pizza and commands Fred to begin. Fred starts, but quickly realizes he is outclassed by Fanny, who has no end of questions and better ideas. As the stories continue — and pizza delivery guy Carlo (Chris Redd) gets involved — darker fears and desires begin to emerge.

Written and directed by Josh Ruben — who also stars as Fred — Scare Me feels like it must have originated as a series of improv games, with the wild, springy actors hurling lines and ideas like fastballs. Even in its quiet moments, Ruben plays with horror movie cliches, such as hearing a noise in the basement, opening the door, taking one look, and closing it again without investigating. Cash's arrival ramps things up quite a bit; she's a smart, prickly delight, in her strange sweater covered in hands.

But when Redd turns up with the pizza a good ways into the movie, everything starts to feel a little too busy, and a little like showing off. It wears out its welcome. However, Ruben makes the spoken stories wonderfully visual, with shadows, sound effects (both studio-made and mouth-made), characters racing around the cabin, and rhythm-precise cutting, and these tricks go a long way into making the movie feel more dynamic.

Moreover, Scare Me is brave enough to explore male-female power struggles — and specifically the ways that men can feel threatened by more powerful women — and to maneuver that into the movie's true terror.

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