Rad Chad’s Horror Emporium reopens for business in Aaron B. Koontz and Cameron Burns’ anthology sequel Scare Package II: Rad Chad’s Revenge. Metatextual genre references that span decades of masked maniacs, belabored tropes and exhaustive retreads become Rad Chad’s torture tools for a new group of fresh protagonist meat. It’s in-joke heavy, tailoring an experience that tears iconic dialogue from classic predecessors and slathers on the meta-overload like popcorn swimming in clarified butter. Koontz and Burns challenge their filmmakers to parody as close to familiarity as possible, seeking originality through heart-eyed spoofs—execution that heavy-handedly screams overindulgence.
Video store clerk turned horror movie victim “Rad” Chad Buckley (Jeremy King) invites specific guests to his funeral as a wraparound reason for round two. Survivors of the previous anthology—like Jessie Kapowski (Zoe Graham)—are in attendance, along with new faces like broheim Dwight (Graham Skipper). The funeral director (Maria Olsen) plays a videotape left behind by Chad, which acts as a final goodbye before knockout gas fills the now-locked facility. Attendees awaken to find they’re trapped in some sort of Saw ripoff revenge game led by Chad from the grave, as each anthology segment leads into a new deadly challenge. Characters must learn from Chad’s screening selections to solve each puzzle if they want to escape Jigsaw’s version of horror trivia.
Alexandra Barreto’s “Welcome to the 90s” showcases the transition of bookish ‘80s final girls (Laurie, Ellen, Nancy) into the rebellious ‘90s era of final girls who didn’t fit good-girl stereotypes (Buffy). A slasher villain welcomes this changing of the guard when selecting the sleepy “Final Girls” sorority house instead of their beer-bongin’ “STD” (Sure To Die) neighbors, which kickstarts a cheeky barrage of final girls poking fun at one another’s franchise traits. Barreto’s not telling horror audiences anything beyond what you might hear Joe Bob Briggs yuk about on The Last Drive In, which becomes a calling card of every Scare Package II segment. Each reference is more evident than the last, whether that’s “Texan” Sally or Ellen’s jumpsuit, as the wholesome throwback final girls try to evolve into the ‘90s free-spirited fighters now on top of the food chain while avoiding cheapo practical-effect deaths. Whether or not you’re smitten by this in-your-face brand of humorous genre assessment will be a crucial realization for what’s to come.
Anthony Cousins returns to direct “The Night He Came Back Again! Part VI: The Night She Came Back,” a continuation of his Scare Package contribution about killers who just won’t die. John Karsko’s screenplay takes a swipe at legacy slasher franchises where Jason, Michael or Freddy defy finality and continuity threads sequel after sequel. Zero subtlety becomes the ironclad vibe of Scare Package II, as Daisy (Chelsey Grant) confronts more plot twists than a game of Chutes and Ladders. Rad Chad’s whole schtick is stuffing horror knowledge into his prisoners, which means each segment winks at the audience with Tim Burton-sized eyes. By the time you reach “The Night He Came Back Again! Part VI: The Night She Came Back,” you’ve already heard more genre references than in a horror convention’s cafeteria.
The thing is, that’ll endear and delight hordes of audiences. Those who enjoyed Scare Package get more Rad Chad, more slophouse low-budget practical effects (some reusable cameos from Scare Package) and more emphasis on relatable genre tropes being skewered by “experts” (Rad Chad). As long as you’ve got the appetite for enough meta gags to burst Oogie Boogie’s burlap seams, you’ll leave happy.
Koontztakes credit for Rad Chad’s wraparound, which features recreations of everything from Freddy Krueger’s television transformation and [REC] found footage shots to a miniature Rad Chad Billy doll on a tricycle. You’ve got your veteran royalty like Kelli Maroney and “Raddified” horror challenges like “Antidote Beer Pong,” as Rad’s clumsy and affable persona shapes what the horror genre looks like through his eyes. Koontz takes pride in exaggerated sequences of violence, whether toxic green vomit melts flesh or bee stings explode an allergic woman’s face, including a flayed-flesh Hellraiser suit that one actor wears for a noteworthy bit. It’s rough around the edges in how slapstick-silly and looney (read: nonsensical) everything becomes, which itself reads as intended commentary—but the impact lessens like being told as a child that, for a whole week, you can eat candy for dinner. After a while, you realize there’s a gut-rotting reason behind “too much of a good thing.”
Towards the latter half is Jed Shepherd’s “Special Edition,” which turns the infamous Three Men and a Baby ghost myth into a murderous digital cryptid as a commentary on celluloid conspiracies. Some of the Host gang reunites for an overnight slaughter in a lighthouse with janky effects, as a sister tries to understand her brother’s untimely death. It’s a bit one-dimensional and suffers from the short storytelling pitfall of delivering action with little resonance, barely exploring a remote control that can pause, fast-forward or chapter-skip the murders (without the user knowing). Rad Chad’s favorite from across the pond doesn’t meet the psycho purveyor’s praise—an unfortunate lull between Rad Chad’s more engaging geekdom gauntlet.
By the time I’d reached Rachele Wiggins’ “We’re So Dead”—a blatant Stand by Me, Re-Animator, It and more knockoff—Scare Package II: Rad Chad’s Revenge had lost its in-joke peppiness. I typically ban the first-person in reviews (for countless reasons), but here I do not because it’s my personal taste that made me feel like I’d spent too long at Wes Craven’s buffet chain. Koontz and Burns have a marketable, bloody-batshit concept in Scare Package that’s akin to the barroom banter in between festival screenings, where avowed horror obsessives test one another’s creativity. Scare Package benefits from balanced horror-comedy; Scare Package II gets lost in a sea of Easter eggs that become the film’s prime directive, not additional treats. With so many meta horror jokesters out there—from Cabin in the Woods to Blood Fest, Scream to Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday the 13th—Rad Chad’s enthusiasm isn’t enough to save Scare Package II: Rad Chad’s Revenge from planting itself smack-dab in the middle, thanks to a suffocating pile of references.
Director: Alexandra Barreto, Aaron B. Koontz, Jed Shepherd, Anthony Cousins, Rachele Wiggins
Writer: Aaron B. Koontz, Cameron Burns, Alexandra Barreto, John Karsko, Jed Shepherd
Starring: Jeremy King, Zoe Graham, Byron Brown, Rich Sommer, Kelli Maroney, Graham Skipper, Maria Olsen, Shakira Ja’nai Paye, Emma Louise Webb
Release Date: December 22, 2022 (Shudder)
Matt Donato is a Los Angeles-based film critic currently published on SlashFilm, Fangoria, Bloody Disgusting, and anywhere else he’s allowed to spread the gospel of Demon Wind. He is also a member of the Hollywood Critics Association. Definitely don’t feed him after midnight.