Directed by Michael Emmanuel, Igor Meglic, and Bob Badway
Usually with anthology horror films the wraparound segments connecting its short subjects have a little more inventiveness to them. Blame it on lack of budget or creativity, the only thing interlocking the five segments that comprise Scary or Die is a decrepit hand clicking away on a mouse as someone or something selects the various short films on a website called “scaryordie.com”. Get it? Like the website “Funny or Die” except with horrific shorts instead of comedic ones. Somewhat ironic that the most entertaining segment of Scary or Die succeeds by being more funny than scary.
The first story is “The Crossing” and it isn’t so much a story as it is a set-up that leads to a plot twist that comes from completely out of left field. I’d be tempted to write this segment off entirely if not for the intensity brought to his role by Bill Oberst Jr. You may recall I heaped much deserved praise upon his work as our 16th President in The Asylum’s Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies and he earns more praise here by taking a role that is essentially nothing more than a one-note white trash bigot caricature and making him a believably menace redneck. Even more so when you see what a jokey Southern stereotype his younger partner in hate crimes is.
A pair of rednecks and their (mutual?) girlfriend head out to a spot in the desert near the US-Mexican border where many illegals cross the border. Not surprisingly, the tables get turned on them. The manner in which the tables get turned on them is somewhat surprising if only because, again, it just happens for no rhyme or reason. Let’s just say an alternate title for this segment could have been “Dayworkers of the Dead”.
Oberst Jr. and some decent gore effects are about the only things saving this 17-minute opening segment from being a total dud.
“Teujung’s Lament” is the next tale and my best advice for you would be to just press the “chapter skip” button and move on. It runs about 15-minutes so you’ll probably have to hit the skip button at least twice; rest assured it will be time well saved. This offering has even less of a story than the previous one, frequently playing out like a bad student.
The minimal plot presented with minimal dialogue has to do with a depressed Korean-American wandering about in an emotionless fog still in mourning over his dead wife (whose spirit is either haunting him or her appearances were just another instance of the director trying to be arty). He witnesses a beautiful Korean woman get abducted and… To reveal anymore would be to spoil what little it has to offer, which really isn’t much. Worse yet, the climax takes place entirely off-camera, as in the screen dips to black and we’re merely treated to the sound effects of the action.
The third segment is “Re-Membered” and here’s where Scary or Die finally begins to pick-up. Christopher Darga (AKA the voice of Kenny Blankenship on SpikeTV’s “Most Extreme Elimination Challenge”) plays a Tony Soprano-esque hitman driving somewhere to dump the duffle bag containing the dismembered body of his latest target. The way he keeps hearing a knocking coming from his trunk initially gives the impression “Re-Membered” is going into “Tell-Tale Heart” territory; it very quickly just veers straight into Creepshow territory.
Note to all mobsters out there: never whack a Satanist. You will regret it.
It’s a shame it only runs a little over 12-minutes because with a few extra scenes giving us a more proper introduction to the killer, his victim, and maybe some inkling as to who wants the guy dead and why, “Re-Membered” could have passed as a perfectly solid episode of “Tales from the Darkside”.
The fourth, longest, and easily best segment is “Clowned” starring Corbin Bleu of High School Musical fame as a drug dealer who gets bitten by a clown with monstrous teeth at his baby brother’s birthday party and slowly begins transforming into a cannibalistic were-clown. His feet grow bigger, his skin turns white, and when his kid brother begins looking mighty appetizing – innocent children are a man-eating clown’s food of choice – he takes to the streets looking like a homeless Elephant Man with a sack covering his newly formed wicked clown face and white afro, determined to find the clown from his kid brother’s birthday party in hopes of curing him of his ly-clown-thrapy.
As absurd as it sounds, “Clowned” actually pulls off an entertaining EC Comic-ish mixture of grisly and giggly, mostly giggly, that brings to mind The Wolf Man by way of Killer Klowns from Outer Space. Bleu manages to sell both the comedy and terror of the situation as he goes from irresponsible punk whose only redeeming quality is his love for his kid brother to sympathetic were-clown terrified he’ll start hurting the ones he loves. I may have been reading too much into it but there seemed to be an attempt at subtext comparing the predatory nature of drug dealers with that of the cannibal clowns that prey on innocent children.
“Clowned” left me wishing it had been expanded to feature length to fully maximize the potential of its weirdly horrific premise. At just over 30-minutes in length this is still the only segment of Scary or Die actually given time to develop a proper story and even then it feels a tad incomplete.
The final segment clocks in at barely five-minutes and feels positively tacked-on, especially coming on the heels of the movie’s longest segment. “Lover Come Back” is about a supernatural revenge tale about a mysterious woman walking somewhere as he tells us her story via voiceover and flashbacks. It’s nicely done for what it is but still feels like a flat note to end the movie on, particularly the rather lame way it ties back in to the wraparound segments.
“Clowned” is really the only reason I’m giving Scary or Die a recommendation. I also enjoyed “Re-Membered”, but “Clowned” is the only segment worth going out of your way to watch. Though for an anthology movie called Scary or Die, again, there’s something not quite right about the best segment being worthwhile because of how comical it is even if it is dark comedy.
3 out of 5