‘Scare Me’ Just Lets a Couple of Horror Writers Improvise Some Spooky Stories at Each Other

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Scare Me (CREDIT: Shudder)

Starring: Aya Cash, Josh Ruben, Chris Redd, Rebecca Drysdale

Director: Josh Ruben

Running Time: 104 Minutes

Rating: Unrated (with R-Level Language)

Release Date: October 1, 2020 (Shudder)

The power is out, and you’re stuck in a secluded cabin in the dead of winter! What would you do if this happened to you? Well, if you’re one of the two main characters in Scare Me, you would ride out the night with each other and attempt to respond to the titular command with some real good creepy stories. Gathering around the fire for that purpose is a tradition that can be quite fun, but does it work when you make an entire movie about that? That is the challenge that writer/director/star Josh Ruben has set for himself. He certainly made a smart decision to cast Aya Cash opposite himself, because she just bites into everything, matching his nasty energy tit-for-tat. It’s a good thing that the performances are as demented as they are, because this movie can be quite claustrophobic to a fault.

When a movie is about people telling stories, my instinct is that it would be best to cut away to those stories as they’re being narrated. If that doesn’t happen, then it puts a LOT of pressure on the actors. Even if they rise to the occasion, I’m still inclined to wonder what it would be like if their tales got spruced up with a whole new set design or a switch to another medium. For example, it’s always fun when animation butts into live action, after all. But that’s not the type of movie that Ruben has made. Instead, he wanted to really up our anxiety levels while we hunker down with frustrated novelist Fred (Ruben) and successful novelist Fanny (Cash). I was happy to go along for the ride, but too often I felt like my patience was being tested.

While we don’t see too much of the spooky imagination transformed into visual whimsy, there is nevertheless plenty of imagination on display, as werewolves, a creepy grandpa, and a dead dog all make appearances in the stories. One yarn is even referred to as “A Star is Born, but Satan,” which certainly makes me respond, “Tell me more!” On top of all that, Cash keeps throwing her voice in a way that makes me wonder if it’s being distorted in post. At one point Chris Redd pops in as a pizza delivery guy who then joins in on the storytelling. (Oh, to be a pizza guy who can just hang around like that while on the clock!)

There’s a lingering sense of resentment on Fred’s part towards Fanny that fuels much of the night. Beyond being not very likable, though, it’s hard to get a clear read on him. Is he a misogynist, or just going through a rough time? Is he a practical joker, or a psychopath? Or is he just bored with life? How does it make sense that all of these options seem like legitimate possibilities? I’m not sure what the answer to that question is. But what I can say with confidence is, if you’re stuck at home with nothing else to do, telling each other scary stories is a fine idea. But if you’re going to make an entire movie about that, you probably ought to bust out the bells and whistles.

Scare Me is Recommended If You Like: Being stuck with grody energy

Grade: 2.5 out of 5 Power Outages

This Is a Movie Review: ‘Game Over Man’ Posits: What If ‘Die Hard,’ But with a Scene of Analingus?

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CREDIT: Cate Cameron/Netflix

This review was originally posted on News Cult in March 2018.

Starring: Blake Anderson, Adam DeVine, Anders Holm, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Neal McDonough, Jamie Demetriou, Aya Cash, Rhona Mitra, Sam Richardson, Daniel Stern

Director: Kyle Newacheck

Running Time: 98 Minutes

Rating: Not Rated, But It Would Be a Hard R for Nudity Leading to Violence, Leading to More Violence (Basically Both Naked and Clothed Bodies Are Mutilated and Exploded)

Release Date: March 23, 2018 (Streaming on Netflix)

Suppose you want to shamelessly rip off Die Hard. It’s a reasonable enough desire. Plenty of folks have done it already. It was practically its own sub-genre for a while there. The knockouts have tapered, but the original is still there for new generations to discover and grow up loving. Thus the Workaholics trio of Blake Anderson, Adam DeVine, and Anders Holm have delivered to the bowels of the Netflix original realm Game Over, Man! in which the height of action thriller cinema is crossed with video game excess. What results is less a narrative movie and more a bizarre wish fulfillment fantasy.

Instead of off-duty cop John McClane, Game Over, Man! gives us The Dew Crew, three hotel workers thus named because of their affinity for a certain soft drink (even though we almost never see them drinking any Mountain Dew). Fashioning themselves entrepreneurs, they attempt to get financing for their “Skintendo Joysuit” (basically a full-body video game controller) from a vulgar celebrity (Utkarsh Ambudkar) partying at the hotel, but that is all derailed, of course, by a team of big-time thieves.

The Dew Crew get the McClane role by virtue of happenstance keeping them away while all the hostages are rounded up. So of course we know they will end up saving the day, but it is a wonder that they do not end up killing themselves instead. DeVine, for one, can never get beyond the mindset that they are in a real-life video game, as he remains singularly focused on getting the kill that the other two have already achieved. Anderson and Holm manage to have a little more awareness of the severity of the situation, but their survival is still mostly attributable to coincidence.

Anderson, DeVine, and Holm have clearly been given free rein to be as graphic as possible, and they take full advantage o. Body parts are variously mutilated and exploded, while there is plenty of male nudity, including one detached member that plays a pivotal climactic role. The shock routine is clearly meant to draw the laughs out, but the trouble is, there is no zest, no finesse to the deployment. Extremity for extremity’s sake can serve the purpose of disrupting snobbish tastes, but when you have an already receptive audience (which the Netflix algorithm will work to ensure), the effect is just numbing.

Game Over, Man! is Recommended If You Like: Excessive Violence and Excessive Comic Nudity

Grade: 2 out of 5 Vapes

2015 Emmy Nominations Predictions and Wishlist

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For my detailed thoughts on my predictions and wishlists in the major Drama, Comedy, and Variety categories, check out these links:

Guest Actor, Comedy
John Hawkes, Inside Amy Schumer
Michael Rapaport, Louie
Chris Gethard, Parks and Recreation
Dwayne Johnson, Saturday Night Live

Guest Actress, Comedy
Susie Essman, Broad City

Guest Actor, Drama
Mel Rodriguez, Better Call Saul

Guest Actress, Drama
Allison Janney, Masters of Sex
Linda Lavin, The Good Wife

Directing, Comedy
Rob Schrab, “Modern Espionage,” Community

Directing, Drama
Adam Arkin, “The Promise,” Justified

Writing, Comedy
Dan Harmon and Chris McKenna, “Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television,” Community

Writng, Drama
Thomas Schnauz, “Pimento,” Better Call Saul

Animated Program
Bojack Horseman – “Downer Ending”
American Dad! – “Dreaming of a White Porsche Christmas”
The Simpsons – “Treehouse of Horror XXV”

Android – “Friends Furever”

Host – Reality/Reality Competition
RuPaul, “RuPaul’s Drag Race”

Interactive Program
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Main Title Design
Man Seeking Woman

Single-Camera Picture Editing, Comedy
Bojack Horseman – “Downer Ending”

Short-Format Live-Action Entertainment Program
Too Many Cooks
Billy On The Street With First Lady Michelle Obama, Big Bird And Elena!!!

Stunt Coordination for a Comedy Series or a Variety Program

Special Visual Effects in a Supporting Role
Man Seeking Woman – “Traib”