Part of the horror streaming network's 61 days of Halloween season, Scare Me has arrived as an early Halloween treat with its playful, inventive and very meta tale of two people trying to freak each other out during a power outage.
Our storytellers are Fred (Josh Ruben, who also wrote and directed the movie), a frustrated copywriter who dreams of making it big as a writer and actor, and Fanny (Cash) who is a successful writer whose debut has been called the best horror novel of all time.
The problem for Fred is that he hasn't got further than "werewolves have guns, get revenge?" when it comes to his first novel. However, he gets his chance to prove himself when a power outage hits and Fanny sets a challenge to tell her a scary story.
But as the pair trade stories, Fred soon has to confront his biggest fear that his talent will never match his ambition and that Fanny is better at writing than he'll ever be.
If you're after an eventful horror, Scare Me might not be the movie for you. It does what it says on the tin and is, mostly, two people telling each other stories, a cinematic equivalent of an epic campfire tale session.
The movie rarely leaves the confines of Fred's cabin once the power outage hits and the tales that Fred and Fanny spin are acted out entirely by them, rather than shown in elaborate shorts like a portmanteau movie. Arguably the closest to a special effect is when Fanny uses some peanut butter to take the place of some vomit.
But that doesn't mean they're not fully engaging stories that are being told, with Ruben and Cash's fully-committed performances combining with terrific sound effects and a knowing wink to horror movie conventions.
Neither character breaks the fourth wall, but they might as well have as the stories they tell end up having an effect on how Scare Me is filmed and edited. (It makes sense once you see it, trust us.)
With a thin plot, Scare Me is reliant on its two leads to keep you hooked and while you probably wouldn't want to spend much time with either Fred or Fanny, Josh Ruben and Aya Cash are both captivating leads.
Their characters could be one-note in lesser hands, but both stars eke out the nuances of Fred and Fanny while they're telling their stories. Whether it's Fanny's constant interruptions of Fred or Fred's desperate search for creativity, their performances-within-performances fill out their character's quirks.
Cash definitely has the showier role as Fanny is a confident storyteller and also has the acting chops that Fred can only dream of. She even gets to deliver a musical number as one of Scare Me's stories takes a bizarre turn into a horror-tinged X Factor.
It's fortunate that the movie's stories have these imaginative spins though as there's no doubt Scare Me's premise is stretched thin and does have a creative lull in the middle, despite Ruben and Cash's best efforts.
The story picks up somewhat with the welcome arrival of Chris Redd's pizza delivery guy Carlo around an hour in that shakes up the dynamic, especially as Carlo turns out to a huge fan of Fanny's debut novel, leaving Fred feeling more useless.
However, once the trio work on a story together, things start to dip again as the movie searches for an ending – and it's a bit of a damp squib.
It's a relatively lazy conclusion and maybe that's one final meta gag at how horrors can no longer surprise, but it still means things end with a shrug.
It doesn't completely undo the positives elsewhere as with two brilliant lead performances, Scare Me is an often fun and inventive spin on a 'isolated cabin in the woods' horror tale. It's just one that perhaps should have ended one tale earlier.
Scare Me is out now on Shudder.
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