An entertaining film that feels like a love letter to all the writers out there, struggling or best selling. Josh Ruben’s Scare Me takes some bold decisions with its confined setting; for the most part, it works swimmingly with two great central performances and a smart script.
Struggling hobbyist writer Fred (Josh Ruben) has headed off to the Catskills for some alone time to write his great werewolf script. When a chance meeting with author Fanny (Aya Cash), who is also in a cabin working on new ideas, a power outage ruins their night. Looking to pass the time, they decide to tell each other scary stories. But the more Fred and Fanny commit to their tales, the more the stories come to life. Finally, as the horrors of reality manifest, Fred confronts his ultimate fear that Fanny may be the better storyteller forcing him to craft the most horrific tale imaginable and put an end to the competition for good.
When Scare Me is full flow, it works effortlessly well; its witty script has you on your toes as Fanny unleashes barb after barb in Fred’s direction. It also takes what can be quite the difficult premise of literally telling stories by fire and makes them come as alive as possible, like the characters you either fall into their story and watch on with glee, or you feel the need to interrupt, to help improve the story. It is a natural thing to do; if you have been in a group telling scary stories to one another, then you have most likely experienced what Fred and Fanny experience here.
Scare Me does falter at times; however, there are instances where it perhaps comes across as a little too indulgent and with a slightly flabby middle, it seems like it required a few cuts to help quicken up the pace proceedings. Still, Ruben is here to give us stories, and he wants to take his time in getting the atmosphere right for how he sees it. For some, this will be fine and barely noticeable. On this site, however, it causes the film not to connect as fully as you want it to and you want it to, as both actors are on top form here with a lively chemistry. They seem to be really enjoying the film, and it shows in their performances.
As said, these two actors are having a ball with the script. As they get fully into each other stories, you are happily taken along with them as they act out the characters. Yet, it is the in-between moments of the stories where we garner the most from the characters and the performances. We see the frustrations inside both of them, be it Fanny’s regarding how she is treated as a writer by white men or the frustrations and severe insecurities of Fred, who clearly sees, thanks to Fanny, how far he has to come as a writer if he has any true desires to make it.
When we get to the final act, however, this is where our actors genuinely shine. Are they still pretending and carrying on the bit? Or has a real scary story begun in the isolated cabin during a cold winters storm? Ruben expertly leaves us guessing throughout, so as he clicks through the gears of his film, he confidently has the audience where he wants them. Has Fred become angry on in instead regarding Fanny’s constant attempts to emasculate him? Has Fanny got ulterior motives for coming and staying at Fred’s cabin?
Keeping the mystery going right until the end makes us feel compelled to wait out the 100-minute runtime to discover if we were right. Just as you would try to guess the end of a scary story as it is being told to you, it is always better to wait until the end, as it never goes how you expect it, and that is usually for the better. Despite the slight issues present in the film, there is still an awful lot to enjoy here in Scare Me, making it a film that you should try and catch if you have not done so already.
Available now on Blu-ray, DVD and digital.
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