Those who have been reading this blog and/or following our reviews know that I’m a huge horror fan.
Anthology horror is a niche within that really hits close to home. Just love horror shorts. Movies like Stephen King and George Romero’s Creepshow and John Carpenter’s Body Bags are a bullseye for my viewing interest.
In Scare Package, we’re treated to seven horror shorts that take a jab at horror tropes. I’m not as big a fan of humor in horror, preferring to be scared over being made to laugh, but still I’m liking the teaser and movie info here.
The movie starts with Chad Buckley, the lonely owner of Rad Chad’s Horror Emporium, who whiles away the hours bickering with his only customer. When a job applicant shows up unexpectedly, Chad takes it upon himself to teach the newbie the rules of horror movies. As Chad narrates, he spins a series of grisly, gory tales that spring to life as mini movies, each directed by a different filmmaker. The cast includes Noah Segan (Knives Out), wrestling legend Dustin Rhodes, Toni Trucks (SEAL Team) and Hawn Tran (Watchmen), among others.
7 directors, 7 stories with runtime of 107 minutes. Simple math tells me that an average of 15 minutes per short. Depending on the complexity of the shorts, this could present a quick, nasty bite in the dark. Again, I’m concerned about how much it leans on humor. It’s easier to create humor-horror than scary horror. Definitely going to check this out. Good news? It’s available as of this writing for Shudder subscribers.
Scare Package is available to stream here on Shudder as of June 18, 2020.
Somehow I missed this Norwegian anthology horror TV series, Bloodride on Netflix released Friday the 13th – March 13, 2020. There are six episodes total with one story per episode.
The basic concept follows a bus with a creepy driver (is that Mr. Death?) with each passenger getting off at a stop being a new story.
This is a show that I would have been very excited to watch on its release. Alas, I’ve been digging around in the streaming services lately and quickly uncovered this and other shows I’d like to watch. The watchlist grows!
These are SPOILER reviews, by the way, so if you enjoy anthology horror shows, go check this out on Netflix and come back afterwards. Am I recommending watching? Yes, especially for those who enjoy anthology horror.
… you’ve been warned, SPOILERS ahead …
Episode 1 – “Ultimate Sacrifice” Air date: March 13, 2020 Run time: 31 minutes
A couple moves out of the city due to financial problems. They soon notice a lot of neighbors oddly cuddling their animals.
Out in the woods one day, the wife observes one of the animals being killed on a sacrificial stone. She is told how sacrifices can lead to a huge windfall of money. Soon, the woman learns the darker secret between sacrifice, bonding and earning greater rewards.
This was a curious story to kick off the series. Those turned off by animal violence might cringe, but no real animals were harmed. It’s the kind of visceral imagery, however, that will disgust and disturb viewers. I liked the episode.
Episode 2 – “Three Sick Brothers” Air date: March 13, 2020 Run time: 27 minutes
Three brothers are heading to a cabin in the woods. They pick up a woman to party with them. As the party gets more intense, we learn one of the brothers just got out of a mental hospital. Meanwhile, his mom is trying to catch up with him to deliver the truly mental news.
This episode, despite the numerous twists and turns doesn’t quite have the shock value of the first one. It’s entertaining enough, but there are far better stories.
Episode 3 – “Bad Writer” Air date: March 13, 2020 Run time: 27 minutes
Student and teacher in sort of a grudge match of words on the computer that can literally come to life.
Not sure if this is a nod to Stephen King or what, but he’s been all over this type of story before. And his writing was better.
Points for the laptop turning into a chomp-hungry mouth. That’s a great visual. It’s a little like going the bathroom and having a fear of something reaching up.
The dubbing in this episode is terrible. It’s really pretty bad in the whole series, in fact. It’s so jarring hearing someone talk and a mouth not move.
Not a fan of this episode, kinda mediocre.
Episode 4 – “Lab Rats” Air date: March 13, 2020 Run time: 32 minutes
An executive tries to figure out who is leaking intel on their secret project. He traps key members of his staff in a chamber in the building and sadistically turns on gas. He leaves them with a clue as to how they can find the clue and get out.
Ah, another one of those delicious little table turning tales (say that three times fast).
“If you love me, you’ll get out in no time.”
Bam! That’s the best line of dialogue in this corporate horror tale.
Episode 5 – “The Old School” Air date: March 13, 2020 Run time: 28 minutes
A woman searches for answers in what happened to the children at an old school.
Chalkboards that write on themselves. Those who like ghosts and spirits in eerie locations will have something to bite into here. Me? This was the weakest episode of the six, although fans of children ghost stories might enjoy.
Dug the violent ending, however.
Episode 6 – “The Elephant in the Room” Air date: March 13, 2020 Run time: 27 minutes
An office costume party from hell. An awkward speech by the boss about how good the company did and then sort of segues into what happened to one of their fellow employees, Martha.
William in development is the person wearing the Dumbo-like costume, right? Helene and William were working on a project and then Martha just “fell” on her face. A freak, bizarre accident.
Horrific use of a paper cutter. Ouch, I could feel that. They should have gone all the way with this angle. Use different typical office items for creative kills.
A twist ending works best when you don’t see the twist coming. Kinda did here. Overall, though I was entertained and enjoyed.
Summary of Season 1
The bus idea could have been exploited a bit more in at least one of the episodes. Instead, it’s just a way to introduce a character in the story. A wraparound bus driver or bus story would have been cool. Similar to how paintings were used in Rod Serling’s Night Gallery. Then again, cool concept having the bus with people being dropped off having different stories.
I don’t know if Netflix will greenlight another season of this series, but it is a competitor to Shudder’s Creepshow. Not as good, mind you, but has potential.
Season 2 of Black Mirror, a science fiction anthology show available for streaming on Netflix, all three episodes, rated and reviewed in this post.
“Be Right Back” ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Episode #4 – Original Airdate: February 11, 2013
A man dies in a car accident and his pregnant girlfriend, Martha, becomes attached to his persona embedded in a phone OS and including his virtual voice. This predated the movies, Her⭐️⭐️⭐️½ (October 2013) and Jexi⭐️⭐️⭐️ (2019). Good length, I think this idea works best as a short, not a full length movie.
“White Bear” ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Episode #5 – Original Airdate: February 18, 2013
Woman awakes with amnesia and runs into strange acting gawking people taking pictures of her with their cell phones. Nice twist on this one turned it into something very different than where I expected it would lead.
“The Waldo Moment” ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Episode #6 – Original Airdate: February 25, 2013
Comedian Jamie Salter is the voice for a blue, brash, foul-mouthed bear named Waldo. His producer gets him into politics, despite his reluctance where the lines between reality and comedy become blurred. Waldo engages in conversations on the street through at cartoon image controlled inside a truck by Jamie in a VR-like setup. The realness of virtual reality and a comic character are prodded, poked and explored. This is a lighter fare episode of Black Mirror. Not quite as enjoyable as the other episodes, but still pretty good.
Season 2 Overall Rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
An increased attention to technology in season two over the first. The episode lengths in this one are better, hence a bump in a half star overall rating for the season over the first. I think this season showed increased maturity over the episodes in the first and was a little better overall.
Black Mirror is a British science fiction anthology series available for streaming on Netflix similar to The Twilight Zone focusing primarily on technology-related stories. Season one debuted with three episodes which are rated and reviewed in this post.
The show was originally available on Channel 4 in the UK. It ran two seasons and then was picked up by Netflix where subscribers can see today.
“The National Anthem” ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Episode #1 – Original Airdate: December 4, 2011
Princess Susannah has been kidnapped and the ransom demanded is that the Prime Minister have sex with a pig live on television. Will he or won’t he do it? And if he does do it, how will those watching feel? All kinds of darkness here. The best of the first season.
“Fifteen Million Merits” ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Episode#2 – Original Airdate: December 11, 2011
People work a stationary bike watching various TV shows all day long collecting “merits” and are subjected to forced ad watching. Heavier people are forced to work in more menial jobs. There is a reality game show mining every day people for talent. Has a very grinding, dark existence. Who would want to live in a world like this? The protagonist Bing tries to help a woman get noticed for her talent. Entertaining, yet depressing.
“The Entire History of You” ⭐️⭐️⭐️½ Episode #3 – Original Airdate: December 18, 2011
What if everything you saw and did was recorded and instantly replayable through a memory implant? A man obsesses over what he thinks is his wife’s adulterous behavior. Is what he’s seeing and replaying what it looks like? A reminder that even if everybody had this technology, maybe some visions are not what they seem — or are they. Makes you really think how technology can divide people in a relationship. Good one.
Season One Overall Rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️½
The stories are dark, compelling and thought-provoking. Some of the episodes are longer than necessary, with perhaps too much padding to reach a specific number of required minutes. This could be a totally amazing anthology show if they will tighten up in future seasons. Overall, a solid entertaining anthology show with a good technology hook that makes it different than others.
Also find it interesting that a single writer, Charles Brooker, is writing all the Black Mirror episodes. Rod Serling was responsible for major writing output on The Twilight Zone and many of the very best episodes he wrote. It’s great having multiple writers, but I think the series creator has the singular vision and it’s often helpful to these show’s quality seeing heavy output from the creator.