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Aaron B. Koontz of ‘Scare Package II’ on gateways instead of gatekeeping and his love of horror

Speaking from the heart.

Aaron B. Koontz has become more comfortable with his Scare Package movies being seen as love letters to horror. The first installment was filled with the tropes that fans love while Scare Package II is a silly and fun homage to the genre that so many grew up watching in hushed tones and falling in love with. We spoke with Aaron about his love of horror, how Scare Package II came about, and when audiences can expect the reboot. 

AIPT: With horror movies, you are legally obligated to do a sequel. How long did it take you to get the sequel together for Scare Package? 

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Aaron B. Koontz: It was never the intention. I mean, this was something that we made with our friends, and I didn’t think anybody was going to like it. It was all private money, and I was kind of frustrated in the industry, so it was kind of born out of this it’s just give it one more shot mentality. Let’s see if anybody likes the weird stuff that we like. 

And then, Shudder bought it, and then it was on Joe Bob – which we hired Joe Bob before any of that stuff. And all these things happen and now people have tattoos, and they dress up in Halloween as characters. And I’m like, “I don’t know what’s going on. I think we need to do more of this.” But we killed my favorite people and now I don’t know what to do. 

So, we had to come through and figure something out, and Shudder immediately was on board, so they funded the second one. We had a meeting pretty quickly after the first one was released, and they’re like, “We want to do it.” And they’re like, “Do you have an idea?” And I’m like, “Yeah, we got all kinds of ideas.” And then we’re like, “Okay, now we got to figure out what to do.” 

But yeah, it was definitely an interesting process because the entire franchise – God, if you want to call it that now – is based on horror tropes. So, what is a bigger horror trope than the horror sequel? And that really became a lynchpin. And then, that summer in particular, I was watching all the Saw sequels in preparation of Spiral, and they were blowing my mind, what was happening in the later Saw sequels. 

There’s a moment at the end of Scare Package II, where Graham Skipper’s characters like, “What is going on?” That’s me in the summer of 2020, watching Saw sequels. 

That became something that was a fun thing to explore. And I’m like, “If you’re going to do sequels, let’s go with the one franchise that has ret-conned everything, and let’s poke fun at that.” And that became a really, really fun angle. I also get to do Scare Package style saw traps and stuff, and I’m like, “This is just silly.” 

AIPT: There’s a lot of great horror spoofs out there, like the Scary Movie franchises, but Scare Package II, feels more like an homage. How important was that to you? 

Koontz: I love that you said that because look, I do enjoy some of the Scary Movies. I think there’s some really great jokes in there, because they’re very talented comedians in what they’re doing. But a lot of times it did feel like it was punching down. It felt like, this was a lesser thing and let’s make fun of how stupid this is. 

I’m cinephile first and foremost and a horror fan within that. But as a cinephile, there are acknowledgements, too. There was a derivative nature that happened in the 80s because some things became very popular, and we had to pump stuff out because the VHS market at that time allowed you to have things profitable before they ever released. So, I get it, I get why some things happened, but they still were a lot of fun. 

And they allowed you to do a lot of really transgressive stuff within horror and what was there. And I think there’s a way to acknowledge that. Okay, maybe some of this went a little crazy and we can have fun with it, but also, you’re embracing it and loving at the same time and trying to find out balance. So, that was important to us that the people that are involved.  

I mean all the way through, even our crew, are horror fans, they’re all diehard horror fans. That way we understand that we’re paying proper respect. We’re talking with this in reverence. And the goal so much of this is. I love this idea that a diehard horror fan and a casual cinephile are watching Scare Package II, and the diehard fans laughing really hard and others are laughing a little bit. 

And then, they’re like, “Why are you laughing so hard? What’s going on?” Like, “Oh no, that’s a reference to Hellbound: Hellraiser II.” And they’re like, “Oh, I haven’t seen that.” I’m like, “Oh my God, we should watch that.” And then, next thing you know Scare Package II is now fostered me again, back in the video store when I was in high school, working at a video store, passing around tapes of my favorite movies for people to watch. And so now we’re… Again, it’s not to say those movies are dumb, it’s to say, “No, those movies are great.” Now go watch those movies too after this, if that makes sense. 

AIPT: Would you be saying it’s fair to say this is a love letter to horror fans? 

Koontz: Yeah, I mean people have said that. I remember the first time I heard it, I kind of rolled my eyes in some weird cynical way, but then I was like, “You know what? It really is.” Because I think that was a phrase that I heard said a lot, about a lot of other horror movies that I just didn’t think applied. 

But then when people started saying it about us, especially in the first Scare Package, I was like, “Oh God. You know what? I mean it is,” I mean, we really are that and it really is. And now, I really love it and I embrace it. I grew up watching the stuff. I wasn’t allowed to watch it as a kid, so I had to sneak around to watch it. 

And it’s just been this special place in my heart, my entire life. So now, that I get to make something that’s not only a horror film, but it’s also about horror films and talks about my love of horror films within doing it. It’s kind of this perfect amalgamation of my interests growing up. 

AIPT: How did you get drawn into horror? 

Koontz: So, at first, my grandmother got HBO for free, and my mom would have to go to her house every day after school to do taxes. And we were a lower middle-class family up in Indiana. And I would go there, and I was like, “Oh, she has HBO, what’s on after eight o’clock at HBO?” We didn’t know. 

So, I put a tape in, I would record overnight and then the next day I would replace the tape. And I got so excited to go to my grandma’s because I’ve got a new tape and they were all horror films. At that time in the late 80s and early 90s. It was all horror that they played overnight for the most part. And I just saw all these movies, I just was exposed to everything I normally wasn’t. Because otherwise I was sheltered from it. 

So, it became this forbidden fruit. It was so exciting and what was there. And then, the other thing was I would watch Joe Bob Briggs, I’d watch MonsterVision and I remember trying to find the unedited versions of the cutdown movies that he had. That was a big thing for me. 

So, those things really got me into it. And then, I think the first horror movie that I didn’t know was a horror movie at the time definitely was Jaws. I was obsessed with Jaws and it’s so riveting and I love sharks and I got to Jaws II and all this. And it just was a movie that changed me. It’s still my all-time favorite film. And then, when I realized like, “Oh, that’s a monster movie, that is a horror movie.” 

And I was like, “Oh my god, this is what I love. This is my thing.” And what was kind of happening there. And I love The Goonies and stuff like that too, but The Goonies even gets kind of horror at times. There’s like things in there that are pretty scary. And those were my favorite moments. So, it all clicked for me. My mom wasn’t very happy about it. Still quite frankly isn’t. But then, I led into it. It’s been in my DNA ever since. 

AIPT: Scare Package, especially in ‘Welcome to the 90s’, can be fun and over the top, but there is also a line of social commentary and a very relevant issue, how important was it for you to get those messages in there? 

Koontz: Yeah, it’s like you need to feel organic. I don’t want to stop and tell a story about what it is that’s important to me here. In talking about what was a Final Girl and how progressive were we or were not in the 80s and what this meant because there was a lot of excuses that were made for, “oh, but this woman’s the last standing, so this is progressive” and it’s like, “Not exactly.” 

There’s a whole other way of looking at that and there’s opportunities there and how do you explore those and how do that change as we’ve moved in the genre. But then also, I mean a big part of this entire thing was horror fandom and fandom in general and gatekeeping and all of that. And this idea that if you don’t get this horror reference, you don’t deserve to watch this. 

And that just is so wrong to me. And I think that’s why I really… The Saw aspect of Jigsaw had this indignation of where he really believed that he understood how people should be acting and what was there, that had never really set well with me even in the early Saw movies and now especially then the later ones especially. 

But I thought it was a fun thing to parody where these people who – I was so frustrated with people calling it a B-movie and people saying elevated horror that I didn’t think was respectful to the genre. But what if in this heightened world you took that the wrong way, and that fandom became something. And now the goal is to get those two people watching and get them more excited to watch more horror.  

Everybody needs to be part of the club and the goal is to make it more gateway rather than gatekeeping. So yeah, you want to find ways to talk about it and especially in Scare Package where it’s so silly that you have to do the jokes, you got to keep the jokes coming in a fun way. So, if you can do it in a comedic way and you’re like, “Oh my God, was that just a pretty big commentary about toxic fandom?” Maybe it was. And I hope people think about that a little bit when they’re done.  

AIPT: Scare Package II leaves the door open for a sequel. How many sequels are you going to do before the inevitable reboot? 

Koontz: Well, we’re going to do 22. No, I mean it’s funny, we have a Google Doc where we just came up with names. There was one day we were on the set of The Pale Door, and we were stuck in a storm and we were all sad and we were like, “Let’s just come up with Scare Package titles.” And so, we did that one night and that invigorated us. 

I love producing for other people. That’s a real passion of mine. I love writing really crazy, absurd things. I love directing, Scare Package allows me to do all of that. I get to work with my favorite filmmakers, I get to make my own thing and there’s no rules. I mean, you could just do anything like any crazy idea, the crazier, the better. 

So, that space I would love to stay in as long as I possibly can, as long as people like yourself are talking about it and people are interested in it and they like it. 

That gives us an opportunity to continue making these, because of all the movies I have, this is the lowest budget movie that I have on my slate, but we have, for all of Paper Shoot Pictures – my company – but it’s the one I put more time in and I secretly care about the most. So, it’s just like a baby.  

All the movies that we’ve made and we’re coming to twenty movies by the end of next year, none of those would happen, if Scare Package 1 did not work because that kept me in the industry and what was going. So, it’s going to be special in that way and I’ll keep doing it as long as people are crazy enough to let me do it. 

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