An Average Movie-Goer’s Review
Spoilers! If you don’t want spoilers – check out the Spoiler-Free post
I love horror movies and if I’m going to watch them anyway, why not write an entertaining/funny review from the POV of an average movie-goer and not a professional critic.
Today we’re looking at the 2020 horror-comedy Scare Me
During a blackout, an aspiring writer (Josh Rubin) and successful horror writer (Aya Cash) take turns attempting to scare each other with stories in a secluded cabin.
Is Scare Me (2020) Scary?
There are almost no jumpscares in the entirety of Scare Me. Although the premise of Scare Me is people telling scary stories, none will actually scare you although they are good. Where it actually shines is comedy and a few (very few) tense moments.
Overall you won’t leave Scare Me (2020) scared of anything except maybe creepy old grandfathers.
Scare Me (2020) Full Plot Summary:
The film opens with a blaring title screen followed by our main character Fred (played by Josh Rubin, also writer and director) being woken up in a cab by the annoyingly inquisitive Bettina (played by Rebecca Drysdale). Through Bettina’s questioning, we learn a few things about Fred and Bettina, so it’s a good thing Fred didn’t choose the “Don’t talk” option for his Uber. Or maybe he did, Bettina doesn’t seem to give a shit.
We learn Fred is an aspiring writer, actor, and director although he currently works at an ad agency. On this trip, to a secluded cabin in upstate NY, he’s trying to write the masterpiece that he hopes will change his life. Meanwhile, Bettina also claims she’s a writer who has this “great” idea involving Korah from the bible and blah blah blah.
While telling Fred all about her story, the two reach the secluded cabin and Bettina doesn’t take the hint to leave until Fred just leaves her outside. A short time later we see that Fred isn’t the most motivated writer since he’s barely got two sentences written out and he seems to be suffering from writer’s block.
After wandering around the cabin struggling to continue his story, Fred gets a bunch of text messages and angrily buries his phone in the couch. Moments later he returns and beats the shit out of the cushion… so Fred’s got some issues.
That night as Fred eats his TV dinner (the official dinner for writers) we hear thumping coming from the basement door. Turns out this is Fred letting his imagination wander and he is actually the one making the noise. He then proceeds to say “Let me out” in a demonic voice as he plays out the scene in real-time. Basically, he’s acting out the scenes in his head but missing the crucial part of writing them down.
The next day while out on a jog Fred meets another jogger, Fanny (played by Aya Cash). Fanny is also renting one of the cabins nearby so she can write but unlike Fred, Fanny is a best-selling horror writer.
That night Fred does some research on Fanny and his jealousy is on display as he claims she’s not so great. The power suddenly goes out and in a jumpscare, Fanny shows up outside of a window inquiring if his power is also out.
Fanny invites herself in and after placing her idea book down on the table, claims she can’t talk about any of them. The two set a fire in the fireplace, well Fred tries and fails so Fanny forcibly takes over. While doing so, she asks Fred about his writing and then straddles the line between a harsh-truth mentor-like figure and an aggressive demeaning critic as Fred tells her his werewolf story idea.
Fred excitingly says his story is about a werewolf killing a kid’s parent and later the kid, now an adult, seeking revenge. Fanny pushes back on his story and claims that it’s not a story, it’s just an idea and honestly, she’s right. Fred is taken aback and gets a text message which clearly angers him since he lashes out at Fanny, downplaying her success.
As thunder strikes, Fanny asserts her dominance over the story-telling craft which definitely scares Fred a bit, although it might have more to do with her clenching a fire poker a little too hard. Fred then tries to jumpscare Fanny but fails at that too.
Seeing as they’re stuck inside during a power outage, Fanny suggests the two tell each other scary stories to see who can scare who. Basically, she read the film’s logline. Fred goes first, despite his reluctance, and before he can get his first sentence out, Fanny berates him for not acting out his story.
Fred finally gets into it and acts out his werewolf story as Fanny jumps in with some helpful suggestions. Here the film does something interesting, though it’s clearly Fred telling a story, we get to see some of what Fred/Fanny envision.
We get some sound effects, some creepy shadows, music, etc. enough to dress up the fact we’re watching someone tell a story but not enough to make a studio cancel the movie for budgetary reasons.
Fred concludes the first act of his story but it’s clear he hasn’t figured out how to finish it. After he gives a pieced-together attempt at an ending, Fanny suggests he make his main character a girl since there are too many white guy protagonists. Fred obliges and it’s now Fanny’s turn to tell a story but she immediately declines which is freaking rude.
Fred points out it was her idea to tell scary stories and she eventually agrees to make one up. Fanny’s story is of a young girl who accidentally kills her creepy grandfather’s dog. On his deathbed, the grandfather curses the girl, and years later, the grandfather and dog return.
The difference in story-telling ability between Fred and Fanny is extremely apparent. Where Fred’s story felt like a pieced-together first draft with moments stolen from films, Fanny’s is expertly told, thrilling, and made up on the spot… in the fiction of the movie of course.
Fanny concludes her story and decides they should take a break and order pizza. Once again Fanny takes the lead and snatches Fred’s phone to order while making another comment about Fred being white. Though he calls her out on it, she downplays it and orders the pizza.
Another text message arrives and Fanny questions why someone named Meredith is calling Fred a monster. Fred says it’s his ex and lashes out demanding his phone back which leads Fanny to decide to take a walk. A short time later we see Fanny outside the cabin writing in her idea book when Fred appears behind her.
Fred admits the reason he lashed out was that his ex, Meredith, filed an order of protection against him. Fanny calls it a restraining order but Fred corrects her stating it’s not the same thing. But if you’re in a position where you need to specify the difference between a restraining order or an order of protection, it’s not a good sign.
Fred explains that he was a shitty boyfriend and after finding out Meredith may have cheated on him, he wrote her multiple letters, called her hundreds of times, and threatened her. Do you know how messed up you have to be to handwrite someone multiple angry letters and not be living in the 19th century?
After claiming he went to therapy and is better now, Fred ends his “woe is me” speech by admitting his jealousy over Fanny’s accomplishments. Once again toeing that line between harsh mentor and critic, Fanny tells him to do something about it and says it’s his turn to tell a story as they head back inside.
Inside, Fred suggests Fanny tell the story of her best-selling novel Venus but she refuses and pushes him to make up a story. Instead, the two work together and tell the story of a troll that lives in the vents of an Edible Arrangements building. Despite it being some weird shit, all the workers are cool with it but never mention the troll.
One day the troll approaches an employee, Karen, and suggests she kill the boss. In return, he’ll let her kiss him which will grant her 300 years of life. Turns out Karen’s boss is a sexual harasser approaching Harvey Weinstein levels so Karen has no problem killing him. The story ends as Karen kills her boss but then must kill an innocent secretary who accidentally walked in on the murder.
As Fred and Fanny sit on the floor Karen now has to now kiss the troll but before that can happen someone enters through the back door in real-life. The man introduces himself and scares the shit out of Fred and Fanny but they relax when he says he’s Carlo the pizza delivery guy (played by Chris Redd). Apparently, pizza delivery guys don’t knock on doors anymore.
Before he leaves Carlo says he’s glad they aren’t killing each other because it would be the perfect night to do it and that’s always a weird thing to say. He then acts out how the killing could have happened which I think is a threat when you’re talking to strangers. Instead of thinking “Oh we’re totally going to die right now”, Fanny asks if he likes scary stories and Carlo basically says “No shit.”
We cut to the three having pizza and after learning that Fanny is a famous writer while Fred is an aspiring writer, Carlo jokingly calls Fred an emasculated man. You know, in case you weren’t getting what the movie was going for. Though it’s clear Fred is starting to lose his cool, he tells Carlo that Fanny wrote Venus and Carlo is revealed to be a huge fan of the book.
It’s story time and Fred suggests they do one about teenagers at a school when one contracts an illness that turns him into a ghoul. Carlo jumps in with the title “Too Ghoul for School” and Fanny is so in love with the title, she writes it down in her idea book. Unfortunately, this causes more tension when Fred says she can’t write the title down since she didn’t think of it. But, he didn’t call dibs so I’m calling bullshit on that claim.
Out of nowhere, Fanny asks who wants to do some cocaine and Carlo happily agrees. After learning that Fred has never done cocaine, Fanny and Carlo peer pressure him and it works. Fred then suggests Fanny re-enact Venus and this time, she agrees.
Because we’re seeing this through Fred’s perspective and he’s high, what we see is a series of nonsensical scenes about a woman and her child surviving the apocalypse. In the end, Fred doesn’t like it but Carlo and Fanny attribute it to Fred not getting it.
The three then brainstorm their next story, a singing teen-slasher who is possessed by the devil and ends up on American Idol. I would like to remind everyone that they are still high on cocaine because that idea turns into a musical number.
As the musical number ends, Carlo realizes he has to go because he still has pizzas to deliver… which are now two hours late. Before he leaves he unwittingly insults Fred a few times by saying he got to meet his favorite author and “a Fred”.
After he leaves, Fanny heads to the bathroom leaving Fred alone in the cabin. When she returns Fred thanks her for helping him have fun for the first time in a while and says he has one last story. Although reluctant, she agrees to hear it and Fred starts by telling her it’s a psychological thriller about a killer who meets a woman that gets under his skin.
Fred describes the woman in the story as a hard-working lucky type that is living her dream which irritates the killer. Fanny jumps in with a few more emasculating jokes and jokingly insinuates the killer is like Fred… moments later she, and we, realize that she’s not wrong.
Fred continues with his story and it becomes painfully obvious that he is talking about him meeting Fanny. Though he says he actually liked Fanny and was happy to feel included, that changed as the night went on, and realized she was just using him to feel better about herself. Alarmingly Fanny notices Fred is now holding the fire poker.
He then reveals he read Fanny’s idea book while she was in the bathroom which included 10 pages of Fanny’s thoughts and observations on wannabe writer “Fragile Fred”. The two argue about what it takes to be successful and Fanny tells Fred to stop pretending to be a writer and actually do that work, which is pretty solid advice.
Fred accuses her of stealing ideas all night which explains why she’s been randomly writing in her book. Fanny essentially tells him to suck it up and adds that she’s a female horror writer, people steal from her all the time so that makes it okay for her to steal. Everyone knows that old saying, two wrongs make a right.
As the two hurl insults at each other, Fanny demands her book back and Fred suggests they play a game. Fanny hides somewhere in the cabin and if Fred doesn’t find her, she gets the book back, but if he does find her, well it’s not going to be pretty. Fred then screams for Fanny to run and she takes off as Fred chases after her… for two seconds before he trips and falls on the ground.
Fanny hides on the second floor and is able to avoid being detected by Fred. Upon leaving her hiding spot, Fred appears and Fanny runs downstairs. Fred chases after her and although we don’t see it, we hear crashing and Fred and Fanny struggling.
We cut to the living room and it’s revealed that Fred fell down the steps and somehow impaled himself in the stomach with the fire poker. Just the worst at everything.
Slowly dying, Fred asks Fanny to finish him off and she tearfully agrees. Fanny grabs a log from the fireplace but can’t bring herself to do it and runs out of the cabin.
Sometime later Bettina shows up at the cabin to pick up Fred. Though she doesn’t notice his dead body on the stairs, she does notice the pizza and grabs a slice. The film ends as she finds Fanny’s idea book.
But wait there’s more!
In a mid-credits scene, it’s revealed Bettina has stolen all the ideas from that night out of Fanny’s idea book and written a successful book entitled Scare Me.
Scare Me (2020) Spoiler Review:
Scare Me (2020) is good but not for everyone. This feels like a movie for writers or those in a creative field, if you’ve ever acted out something while you’re writing it, you’re going to like this movie. Unfortunately despite it being called a horror movie, it doesn’t feel much like horror so if you’re coming into it expecting a tense horror film, you’re going to be disappointed. I will say though the ending, mainly due to the acting, is pretty tense.
That’s not to say the acting in the rest of the film is bad, it’s some of the consistently best I’ve seen in a while throughout an entire film. Josh Rubin and Aya Cash do an amazing job at switching between characters at the turn of a dime while they tell their stories. Chris Redd also does a great job as the blissfully ignorant fan. Are there moments when it feels a bit over the top? Yea, but the movie calls for it so it makes sense… and the musical scene is great.
Scare Me is funny, well-written, and has an interesting premise, but it doesn’t quite land the social commentary it was trying to make. Clearly, it was trying to make commentary on men who feel emasculated by strong women or women who are better than them in the same career but it doesn’t balance that commentary well with its characters.
Both characters come off as shitty people, Fred wants success without working for it, he implies he’s actually the one who cheated on his ex, has anger problems, and probably the most shitty trait of all; he’s a killer.
Meanwhile, Fanny is full of herself, aggressive, doesn’t recognize boundaries, and seems to enjoy seeing Fred hurt. For example, when Carlo says Fred is emasculated, we cut to Fanny who gives a smug smile. But there are positives about Fanny, she’s hard-working, confident, at some points actually seems like she’s trying to help Fred, and she’s actually talented.
I suspect both characters have their bad qualities front and center because we’re not supposed to know who the real threat is from the start, unfortunately, this only makes us dislike both characters until further into the movie.
Overall I would highly recommend Scare Me (2020) especially if you’re a writer or work in a creative field, if you’re not or don’t, give it a shot but it’s okay to turn it off after 30 minutes if you’re not into it. I really wouldn’t recommend it to anyone looking for a horror film to watch because there’s not much of that until the end.