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Interview: Co-Creator Aaron B. Koontz on Making Horror Comedy Anthology SCARE PACKAGE, A Love Letter to Horror

Get ready horror fans, AMC Networks’ horror streaming platform Shudder is premiering the horror comedy anthology Scare Package on June 18th. Created by Writer/director Aaron B. Koontz and writer Cameron Burns, who previously worked together on Camera Obscura, Scare Package features seven delightfully terrifying tales from a range of horror subgenres. The anthology features a variety of directors with each segment poking fun at common horror tropes and it is genuinely a lot of fun to watch. The cast includes Noah Segan (Knives Out), Baron Vaughn (Mystery Science Theater 3000), Chase Williamson (Beyond the Gates), Jocelyn DeBoer (Greener Grass), Jeremy King (Camera Obscura), wrestling legend Dustin Rhodes, Toni Trucks (SEAL Team), Hawn Tran (Watchmen) and more. 

From behind-the-scenes of a horror movie, to gooey, bloody eighties style practical effects, to slashers, there is something to appeal to every kind of horror fan. Along with segments directed by Aaron B. Koontz, Courtney Andujar and Hillary Andujar, Anthony Cousins, Emily Hagins, and Chris McInroy, Scare Package also features the directorial debuts of Baron Vaughn and Noah Segan. The last segment, Horror Hypothesis directed by Koontz, is one of my favorite segments and it even features a surprise appearance by someone well-known in the horror community. For more information on Scare Package, you can check out the film’s official website.

Dread Central was excited to have the opportunity to speak with Aaron B. Koontz about creating Scare Package with fellow horror fans, practical effects, and a lot more. Read on to find out what we talked about!

Dread Central: You were quoted as saying, “This is a movie made by horror fans, for horror fans.” That’s obvious in nods to other horror movies and the way each segment pokes fun at common horror tropes. I know that you and Cameron Burns came up with the concept for Scare Package. What inspired the two of you to make this horror comedy anthology?

Aaron B. Koontz: Our first feature film was a bit of a downer [laughs]. It was just a difficult film to make and we were all kinds of sad and then watching the movie, it just kind of punches you in the gut a bit. We were like, “You know, we want to do something fun.” So, we knew we wanted to do something fun and we also wanted to do something smaller that was with our friends, because we had sort of a frustrating experience making the first movie and we wanted to work with the people that we loved and get back to why we wanted to make films to begin with.

Cameron was always pushing me to make an anthology and I always pushed back because there are so many great ones and I wondered what can we really offer in this space. I don’t want it to be derivative, I want it to be something new if we’re going to do that. But he challenged me because we have so many great people we wanted to work with, so I watched every anthology. I literally created a spreadsheet of all the anthologies and what I liked and what I didn’t like, and as I was evaluating how those should work and what was there, I noticed that there was a trend and how much I love horror comedies. And that’s what I hadn’t seen, one that was all horror comedy. The closest one is Tales of Halloween, but they still go off the grid a bit in different ways, great ways. So, once I settled on that, we love what Southbound did and how that felt like one movie and Trick ‘R Treat is an anthology, but Southbound had different directors. So, I even talked to Brad Miska and others about it and was like, “How did you do this? What were the highs and lows?”

And I reached out to Adam Egypt Mortimer, who helped make Holidays, and I was like, “Look, tell me how you all did this so we can learn and make the best version of this possible.” My friends were very gracious with their time and offered ideas and then we settled on tropes. Let’s make every segment a different horror trope. The original title was even Tropes, but people didn’t always know what tropes are and then I thought, “Well, if the movie is about tropes, then the title also needs to be a trope.” Like Silent Night, Deadly Night or Chopping Mall; those old titles that were fun and that’s what I think of when I think of horror, so every aspect of this movie became a trope and that’s when the name changed to the punny Scare Package. I didn’t know Baron Vaughn before we got started and I didn’t know what his thoughts were on horror. But within five minutes of us deep diving about things like the original Ringu versus the remake and all these different variables in horror that he loved and didn’t, I was like, “Okay, you’re one of us. This is great.” That’s what it had to be. You can be referential, but sometimes you punch down or people look at horror as beneath them. I was like, “I don’t want to make fun of horror. I want to poke fun at it.”

DC: Was there a process for how you chose which segments you wanted to include, such as people submitting their stories, and how did you decide which ones you were going to include in the anthology?

AK: We had a list of directors that we wanted to work with that we thought could be possible fits. We wanted it to be a diverse group, we wanted to have different voices represented. That was very important to us. We went to them and said, “Hey, we’re making this movie. Here are the rules. We want to focus on eighties horror tropes, more specifically. Here’s a list of tropes. Pick some you want to incorporate.” Some folks could pick one, like Emily Hagins went off on cold opens and how that worked, and that was great, although she kind of presented that idea herself in many ways. But in Chris McInroy’s One Time in the Woods, he just threw in every trope he possibly could in ten minutes.

Aaron B Koontz photo 300x199 - Interview: Co-Creator Aaron B. Koontz on Making Horror Comedy Anthology SCARE PACKAGE, A Love Letter to Horror
Writer/director Aaron B. Koontz

We worked on this kind of like a showrunner would on television episodes; here’s a process, here’s a budget; we worked with them on the scripts; we worked with them on everything. We flew producers out to their sets to help them. We used all of our resources and it was a very collaborative process. We did one segment at a time, so we took our time. We would do one, wait, evaluate it, and then do another. My team, the Paper Street Pictures team, we all incorporated that into the big, main story that we were going in and out of. It was important to us that there was at least one story that you could watch from beginning to end, with a wraparound, and that could be one movie, even if you didn’t have to leave it and see other segments. There was still one central story to follow.

DC: One of my favorite segments is the last one, which you directed, Horror Hypothesis. How did you come up with the idea, and the many hilarious nods to other horror movies, and did you already have the story written for Rad Chad’s Horror Emporium, the wraparound which ties the segments together?

AK: That was kind of tricky. We first focused on all the other segments we wanted to do. We knew we were going to put a bit more money into one bigger segment we were going to do ourselves, but we didn’t know what it was going to be. Alex Euting, who actually edited the film and brought all the pieces together, he said, “You know what would be funny? A place where they experiment on a killer to understand why the wills of horror happen.” I was like, “Whoa, there’s something there.” And then Cameron and I went off and wrote it. It’s a way to be self-referential, but then actually put the tropes in the movie itself, like seeing the girl running on the treadmill and she’s faster, but he’s still gaining on her and it explains that.

There’s a logical explanation to everything that seems illogical in horror movies. And that was fun. I love doing that. I love trying to come up with excuses for horror, so this was a way to do that in a segment. So, we knew we had that, and I wanted that to tie into the wraparound and Rad Chad’s story, but we had to customize that. So, we wrote a custom story to make that all be cohesive, so directing that wraparound and then directing the end, and keeping Jeremy King who plays Rad Chad, that gave us that throughline to kind of explain what was going on and then to also bring back actors from Cold Open, Emily Hagins’ segment, was just a fun way to try and wrap it up.

DC: Without saying who it is, can you talk a little bit about the surprise appearance in Horror Hypothesis, which ties in with Rad Chad’s Horror Emporium?

AK: Rad Chad is supposed to be a horror afficionado, right? So, we talk about Jamie Kennedy’s character in Scream, so he’s kind of that person in a way. Which is weird, because that’s meta and we’re commenting on a movie that’s commenting on horror already, so we’re so far down the rabbit hole here [laughs]. So, we wanted to tie it back around that these people who are experimenting on horror would want to understand horror, so who would they hire to understand horror. And this was before any kind of resurgence had happened, so it was just a person that I grew up watching and liking but knew horror and I thought it would be a lot of fun. This was back in 2017 and what was funny at the time was that the notes we got back were that nobody remembers who that is. I said, “Well, okay, that’s fine. It will be even funnier for the people who do know, but for the people who don’t, it could still be a funny moment.” This person might be his father and we created this whole side story for that [laughs] and all these things to have fun with.

He followed me on Twitter one day and I said, “Well, I’m going to try this and see if it will work.” And it did. It was honestly a lot of fun. He was great to work with. It was meant to be a crowd-pleasing moment. As we played at festivals, people literally jumped out of their seats and yelled, “Oh My God!” So, that was a great moment. It was a lot of fun. That’s all we wanted. Like I said, we made this movie because we had a very tough experience making our first feature and all we wanted to do was have fun with our friends and do it our way. We made it one hundred percent independently. Everybody put in so much time and money and effort to make this happen. It was meant to be our love letter to horror, but we made sure everybody was a real horror fan and really put that heart into it at the same time.

DC: Every segment in Scare Package utilizes some great practical effects and it gives the anthology a retro feel. Can you talk a little bit about the eighties effects and what are your thoughts on CGI versus practical effects?

AK: Everything we do, even in my shorts as well as features, is all practical effects. We are just massive fans of how that works. It just so happens that that coincides with the eighties because of that boom and people like Tom Savini. That’s what we grew up loving, so that’s what we’re going to do. I think that there are opportunities for subtle digital effects that can accent practical effects, but you should be leaning on your blood. I hate fake blood. We used over forty gallons of blood on Scare Package, which is one of the bloodiest films possibly ever [laughs]. And we take pride in that. But the intention wasn’t necessarily to say, “Let’s make this like the eighties.” It was more so, let’s just do the effects the way that we love effects being done, which happened to be a lot in the eighties [laughs].

What do you think?

Written by Michelle Swope


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