Austin-Made Horror Anthology Debuts on Shudder This Week

That Scare Package you ordered is here

Aaron B. Koontz

Imagine getting your childhood cinematic hero to give your new film its secret world streaming premiere. Aaron B. Koontz got that moment last Friday night when cult film critic and exploitation expert Joe Bob Briggs presented a special preview of Scare Package, his Austin-made comedy-gore anthology, which debuts via horror specialists Shudder this week. "The high still hasn't gone," said Koontz.

After distribution woes with his first feature, Camera Obscura, he and producer Cameron Burns gathered some friends to celebrate the golden age of VHS anthologies. So, alongside Austin directors Emily Hagins (who handled the intro segment, "Cold Open") and Chris McInroy ("One Time In The Woods") plus UT alums Courtney and Hillary Andujar ("Girls' Night Out Of Body"), Fantastic Fest vet Anthony Cousins ("The Night He Came Back Again! Part IV: The Final Kill"), and the directorial debuts for actors Noah Segan ("M.I.S.T.E.R.") and Baron Vaughn ("So Much To Do"), they made Scare Package. Koontz called it "our way of escaping our problems with the industry, and now people have it as their way to escape the world for 90 minutes, and just laugh at dumb shit."

But before the streaming debut this week, the anthology got a special preview screening as part of Shudder's The Last Drive-In: a mystery feature double-bill, hosted by Briggs. Even though the horror host makes a cameo in the film, that didn't mean it was going to make the drive-in marquee. It also definitely wasn't why Koontz cast him, as season 1 hadn't even been greenlit when Briggs signed on for Scare Package. "Joe Bob had to like the movie," Koontz said (it's been a running joke that Briggs hated one film he made, 2014's killer pig shocker Hogzilla, so much that the only way it made the show was by the producers not telling him that they'd booked it, and blindsiding him on-set). It was only when the film made its U.S. debut last year at Telluride Horror that "he was on stage going, 'I actually like it, I actually like it.' I kept going, 'Cool, keep stressing actually, like you didn't know that was possible.'"

Koontz took the opportunity to suggest to Briggs that his film get that Last Drive-In treatment after that October screening, and the response was crickets – until January when, out of the blue, "I just got a message from [Shudder head curator] Sam Zimmerman: 'Joe Bob's so excited, he wants to play the movie.' What?"

Koontz was originally going to fly to the Shudder studios to record the episode, but the coronavirus pandemic butchered that plan. Instead, he spent last Friday at home in Austin watching along with everyone else, watching Briggs dissect his movie, segment by segment, giving running scores and kill counts. Fortunately, the B-movie guru gave it four stars. As someone who grew up watching and reading Briggs, and who got to share this virtual premiere with his first-time filmmaker friends, Koontz said, "The 12-year-old me would not believe that this could happen."

Scare Package debuts on Shudder on June 18. Joe Bob says, check it out.

Join Austin Chronicle Screens Editor Richard Whittaker for a livetweet of the comedy-horror at 8pm Central on release day. Follow along using the hashtags #NowStreamingInAustin and #ScarePackage.

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