Classics like Creepshow and Body Bags might seem easy to make, but watch a few anthology films and you quickly realize how difficult it is to build and balance a truly cohesive collection of terrifying tales. Things start badly for Scary or Die when we are treated to a mysterious stranger sitting down to a computer to visit an ominous website. The website is named 'Scary or Die' and it is the vehicle used for the wrap around story of the film. There are no introductions or narratives in the beginning, and within a matter of minutes we are right into our first story. Made me wonder why the filmmakers didn't just ditch this part of the formula altogether. After all, Michael Dougherty proved in 2007 with Trick R Treat that a wrap-around story isn't entirely necessary anymore.
There are two types of anthologies; a collection of short films and a collection of creepy tales. One feels disjointed and cobbled together, the other feels fluid with an artistic vision from beginning to end. It isn't a bad thing to have an anthology feature comprised of short films, but usually it is painfully obvious. And this is where Scary or Die falters.
There are five vignettes. The first is "The Crossing", a horrific commentary on immigration and vigilantism that rips off Night of the Living Dead. Unfortunately, it doesn't really have anything to say which is a prerequisite for good commentary. The short stars rising genre actor Bill Oberst Jr. whose skeletal visage and smoldering intensity easily make him the most memorable aspect. Before we know it the first story is over and we're on to the second.
"Tae Jung's Lament" is about a widower who longs for female companionship and will go to any lengths to find it. Here we start to notice a pattern that will play itself through to the end of the film; every story has a twist. There seems to be a consensus that all anthology stories must have twists. This probably dates back to the EC comics of old, Tales from the Crypt and Vault of Horror. Some films manage this quite well but the majority are sloppy with it. The twist at the end of "Tae Jung's Lament" is all too familiar to anyone who has ever seen a horror movie.
"Re-Membered" has to be the weakest entry of the bunch, focusing on a hit man who must contend with unforeseen circumstances. This entry fails on multiple levels beginning with the casting. Christopher Darga doesn't feel like a hit man, the story structure is unnecessarily complicated, and the “twist” is telegraphed by the title!
While "Re-Membered" is definitely a low point; it's followed by the best story, "Clowned", which provides inspiration for the movie's poster. Emmett (a friendly neighborhood drug dealer!?!) is bitten by a clown that produces terrifying changes in his body. This is the most blatant example of a short that sticks out incongruously from the others, it's longer and the tone is different. What could have been a terrifying story turns into a farce sprinkled with dry humor. It is by far the most entertaining portion of the movie even if it does overstay its welcome.
The last story "Lover Come Back " is a poem made into a film about a scorned lover who has one last surprise for her adulterous partner. It is short, anticlimactic and leads us into the finale of the film. There really isn't much to say as its literally ten minutes long and is over before you can connect with it.
As far as low budget horror goes, Scary or Die looks great. It's competently made from a technical aspect and there is real suspense in a few of the stories. The real issue is that there is nothing that stands out. There are hardly any special effects to speak of and all the violence is cut away from. It isn't until "Clowned" that we get to see some terrifying makeup but that isn't hardly worth watching the movie for. I commend the filmmakers in producing a decent horror film. Unfortunately, that just isn't enough to help this anthology stand out from the pack.