Let’s cut to the chase: Scare Me is not scary at all. It’s a comedy, with sort of a horror backdrop. It’s a low-budget film that takes place mostly in one room, with two main characters telling each other tales to top the other in terms of chills and outrageousness.
Scare Me is the spawn of writer-director Josh Ruben, starring Ruben as Fred, and Aya Cash as Fanny. They portray horror fiction writers—he’s a wannabe, and she’s a bestseller. They are strangers when they meet while out jogging near their respective, remote retreat cabins in the woods, but as the day drones on, they become closer than they ever could have imagined. When the inevitable power outage happens, they wind up holed up in Fred’s cabin, telling each other scary stories. If the idea of watching two people sit around telling stories all night sounds dull… it is.
Both characters are pretty unlikeable. Fred is a nebbish, bitter wannabe who has a grain of an idea for a werewolf revenge novel, but that’s all. Fanny radiates vibes of superiority, and she vacillates between making fun of Fred and deigning to give him storytelling pointers.
The cinematography is good, given the limitations of the story. The dark corners and dancing firelight look atmospheric as they should. Occasionally we see the characters seeing things—werewolf claws, vampire teeth, eerie shadows on the wall—but that’s the extent of the “action.” It’s like watching improv at a black box theater. The acting is excellent if a bit over the top, but it wasn’t enough to sustain the premise and bloated 1-hour, 44-minute runtime.
There are a couple of other characters—an Uber driver and a pizza delivery guy (Chris Redd). The driver is an aspiring screenwriter, and the fast-food employee is a big fan of Fanny’s. What are the odds? Actually, these two are far more entertaining than Fred and Fanny. And fortunately, one of them makes the whole slog worthwhile if you can make it to the bitter end.
Scare Me is a bit of a message film, with an underlying agenda to lay bare the simmering resentment of the archetypical privileged young white male who, despite having every opportunity, is not as successful as his female neighbor. He’s single, jobless, and not much of a writer; rather than taking a look at himself, Fred finds it easier to blame his lack of success on others.
Scare Me has a few moments, and it’s not awful by any means, but the over-the-top performances and overlong runtime will try the patience of even the most forgiving cinephile.