Aaron B. Koontz Interview: Panic Pack II Rad Chad's Revenge

Scary Pack II: Radchard's Revenge writer/director Aaron B. Koontz discusses the surprising horror anthology sequel and coping with a new era of horror.

Aaron B. Koontz's hit horror anthology franchise returns with Scary Pack II: Radchard's Revenge. In the sequel, a group of people who attend the funeral of the titular video store master of horror end up in a series of deadly traps orchestrated by the late Chad.

Koontz and writer/production partner Cameron Burns assembled another roster of indie genre filmmakers for Panic Pack II: Radchad's Revenge, including host Jed Shepard, Maya M.C. Alessandra Barreto and returning director Anthony Cousins. This sequel to the horror anthology satirizes everything from the Saw series to A Nightmare on Elm Street and is a stylish, hilarious and gory love letter to the horror genre of all kinds.

Ahead of release, Screen Rant chats exclusively with writer/director/producer Aaron B. Koontz about Thriller Pack II: Radchard's Revenge, discussing his unexpected horror anthology sequel, building a new A roster of independent filmmakers whose horror franchise would love to get his hands on it right, and the future of the franchise.

Aaron B. Koontz on Scare Package II: Rad Chad's Revenge

Screen Rant: One of the toughest challenges in horror is not just making a good horror sequel, but making a good horror anthology. you Somehow, both the first movie and Scare Pack II: Rad Chad's Revenge were successful. How did the concept of putting this together really come about?

Aaron B. Koontz: Thank you so much, first off. And also thank you for everything that you've done for all of our projects and everything. This was never supposed to happen; this was just a movie we made with our friends and threw some blood around, and we're like, "Nobody's going to like these stupid jokes." Then, all of a sudden, people are doing fan art, and there's people with tattoos and dressing up for Halloween, I'm like, "What did we just do?" So, we had to kind of get in there, and then I was like, "Well, s--t, we've killed people that I love, what do I do now?" But then I'm like, "Wait a second, we're talking about horror tropes. There are no bigger horror tropes than the retconning of horror sequels, right? And who does that better than Saw?" I was watching the Saw franchise again in preparation for Spiral, because I went to see that that summer, and I remember I was like, "I cannot figure out the logic of this." [Chuckles] You get to Saw 6, 7, and they just like cut to a flashback, and they were two people talking, and then like, "No, there were four people talking," and then the next one, there were six, I'm like, "They just keep throwing people in the background. All these crazy things keep happening." Then, Cary Elwes shows up, and I have no idea what Saw's motivation is anymore, Jigsaw's motivation, it's totally not making any sense to me. He's still there in the movies, even though he's died, like a couple times. It's all so wild, and I was like, "Well, this becomes a framework that's a lot of fun." Plus, I had a lot of frustration with some horror fandom, or just fandom in general, and what that was like, and I thought there could be this [idea] where Jigsaw has his indignation for people that he thinks don't understand how the world should work. The same thing can happen with, maybe Sam, and he could misunderstand the people who made fun of horror, called it a B-movie, and say elevated horror, and all that stuff. Then, where would he take it in this heightened world, and I saw a parallel to him and Jigsaw that I thought was really, really fun. Then, taking that one last step further, now I get to do Saw-style traps Scare Package-style, and I'm like, "Now this sequel has legs, and it'd be a lot of fun, and making it more meta, so you're watching it with the actual characters, all those types of things." It just really started to click around that, and we knew it was off and running, but none of that was intentional. You know what I mean? None of this was planned, it was just Shudder being like, "Hey, by the way, this is a hit. We should do a sequel," and I'm like, "Oh s--t," and we're off and running.

In addition to Saw, we also saw Re-Animator, we also saw A Nightmare on Elm Street, and I especially liked the Final Girls sequence at the beginning of the film. How did you put together the concepts of the various market segments? Did you take advice from individual filmmakers, or what were your ideas to those filmmakers?

Aaron B. Koontz: A combination of the two, yeah, we wrote "We're So Dead," and we found a filmmaker for that, because I thought I had directed enough. I was like, "Oh, my God, what I'm directing is already too much in this, so I don't want to do another one." [Laughs] But yeah, so with "Welcome to the '90s," that was Alexandra Barreto, she's best friends with my producing partner, Ashleigh Sneed, and she made a short called "Lady Hater that was just so funny, and it was just very sarcastic, just had this energy to it in the way the dialogue was shown. I was like, "She's great," and then when I learned that she was a diehard horror fan, I went to her, and I was like, "Look, I want to talk about something in your style of humor. I want something that's like a feminist, maybe final girl [story]." I always thought that there was an interesting commentary on the change of final girls in what was kind of going on, I didn't take it as literally as she did, but the further we talked about that idea, she went off and wrote this brilliance. We talked to a lot of filmmakers, we'd get pitches, this was the only one, I think, that the first pitch we were like, "Yes, you nailed it, let's just refine a few things," and were off and running, and then we made that together. It was just an honor to be on set with her, and watching her work, she's so talented, and now I want to make a feature with her, because she's so great. Anthony Cousins, he was the one that we brought back, because he was already working in the sequel world, he made a sequel in the first one is kind of already playing up the parody level of that, so in our sequel about sequels, I need to do a sequel to his movie that talked about sequels. Plus, I've never seen a sequel to a segment before, so that meant I had to do it. We weren't saying one was better than the others from the first, it was just this one that really made sense to continue its storyline. Jed Shepard was someone who we became friends through the pandemic online, like Twitter, and we were in clubhouse conversations together, we did a couple panels together, and just kind of became friendly. I had reached out to him to help me, I wanted to do a J-horror segment, because '90s, 2000s horror boom was a big focus on this. The '80s horror is going to permeate either way, because it's just in my DNA, and I can't get out of there, but we wanted to talk about some new things. I was talking to Jed about J-horror, and he had another director that he knew, so he's introducing me, but then the timing didn't work for her, we couldn't kind of make it break down, and then I'm like, "Oh, man, I don't have somebody, I really want to do this thing," and he's like, "You know, I'm right here!" And I'm like, "Oh, sh--t. [Laughs] Let's look at that." Then we started talking about ideas, and he's like, "We can get the Host girls together," and then once we settled on the Three Men and a Baby thing, because I literally owned the laserdisc of Three Men and a Baby, and my friends came over, and we played it on the biggest screen we could, and we would frame-by-frame watch it. That was something I did, so I was kind of like, "Do that, take that and let that become the kind of coming-through-the-TV stuff, but from the Three Men and a Baby, have that be our J-horror angle," and he goes and runs with it. So it's all different stuff. You know, like, I'll have a little idea a morsel of something, or they'll come back with something, and we'll continue to tweak it like with Anthony Cousins and John Karsko's segment.
We were on set for Old Man, Lucky McKee's film, and Anthony was actually crew on that, and he would come up to me in between takes, he's like, "Okay, so what if this and this and this?," and I'd be like, "Ooh, what about this or this?" We would kind of go back and forth with ideas, and then him and John would go write it. So yeah, I love that collaborative process with these other directors, I love producing, it's something that I'm really passionate about, so Scare Package is that perfect amalgamation of all these things. I get to work with these talented filmmakers, I get to develop the stories, I get to produce, and then I also get these wild ideas that I get to foster and see become this absurdity that it is in the same bite, it's really special.

I'm glad you helped these filmmakers launch their feature-length debuts. Earlier this year, we saw Noah Segan with Blood Relatives. Is this something you're specifically looking for when building those Scare Package rosters? Those who might not have had time to shine behind the camera yet?

Aaron B. Koontz: 100%, yeah, astute observation, because there are a lot of people — even some very well-known filmmakers have said, "I want to do one," and I'm like, "Look, I know this sounds crazy that I'm saying no to you, but I really think there needs to be a little bit of a DIY aspect of Scare Package in what's there." To the point where I'm definitely the most experienced at this point, doing most of the Scare Package things, other than, I would say, Emily Higgins of the first one. But she was also in this weird state where she couldn't get her next movie going, and she's trying to figure things out, and I was like, "Well, then, let's bring you in and do this." Actually, now, we fostered that same thing, we just did Sorry About the Demon which, by the way, will come out next month, and that will be a whole other press cycle, and I think you'll really dig it. But that movie came from, it stars John Michael Simpson from the first Scare Package opening, he's the star of it, so that also came from these opportunities. So I think it's I definitely want, like I said, there's a DIY aspect that I think is important, and it's giving people opportunities, because nobody's really gonna make a lot of money off Scare Package. Any money we get, we just put back onto the screen, and because it really is a love letter, it sounds so cheesy to say, but it just really is these movies that we care about. These people were all kind of all in, because we know that it's going to help everyone move their careers forward, hopefully. So, I love the idea, it is a great breeding grounds for us, or like testing grounds of like, "Okay, how's this filmmaker working with us? Is there something we could do?" We have multiple features in development with Scare Package directors that's not even announced yet, so I would love to continue doing that, and build off this roster of people, and be like, "Look, they did this," and I can show them this segment, and it's in a feature that people have seen and heard of, and it's not just a short film, even though it is a short, you know what I mean? It kind of gives them a little more gravitas, and that makes me really proud, because now that we have become this company that can make a lot of movies, I want to use that privilege and help other people to kind of get there. But yeah, there's a couple filmmakers that I'm like, "Oh, man, I can't believe I didn't say yes," but I think again, it's what makes sense for this type of movie that we're trying to do.

With all the prolific filmmakers out there for this, do you have any thoughts on making a separate anthology from the scare pack series to bring that group together?

Aaron B. Koontz: Are you referring to Scare Package: All Stars, Grant? Because we have talked about a Scare Package: All Stars. [Chuckles] Yeah, there was a day actually on set of The Pale Door, we had all these storms and stuff, so we had a lot of downtime, and I would get depressed because I'm like, "I can't shoot right now on this movie, and everything's getting ruined." The way that I felt better about it was I would go back to Scare Package, and we would talk about all the Scare Package sequels we wanted to make and ideas. I want to have one that's all queer directors, and it's Scare Package: Out for Delivery. There's just all these fun ideas that we have, and it would be great. So yes, I think in that universe, there's so much that we could explore, but we'll see. Hopefully enough people dig the second one to give us opportunities, because, again, I'm still in that phase where I don't know what are people gonna think. But, you know, fingers crossed, because we did try to give this a little bit of a Back to the Future 2 kind of ending, so I'm hoping that alludes to something. I'm hoping that there's opportunities there to continue this world.

The first actual effect is heavy, with a lot of blood spilled. but This one definitely feels like raising the stakes. Is there an effect that you were really happy to achieve in this effect?

Aaron B. Koontz: God, I mean, there's a couple. There's some deliberate kind of shoddy CGI in moments because, and I don't know if people are going to get this, but like, Ghost Ship and stuff like that, in the '90s and 2000s, there was this weird mix where people hadn't fully figured out CGI, but they were still doing practical effects. So I did sprinkle in a couple things, and it's funny, some people are like, "This is just horrible CGI," I'm like, "Well, yeah, that's of the era, that's how it's supposed to look." I remember even telling some of my VFX artists, "No, no, no, no, no, I don't want to polish it anymore. That feels authentic to me." But, as far as the actual practical gags god, I love that we got to skin my buddy Graham Skipper alive, and keep him in character throughout, which I thought was a lot of fun. But probably my favorite gag, God, Moira's death is pretty good, where her head explodes. It was probably the Dream Warriors thing with Sam, because it was both a ton of practical effects of making him there, he's wearing these things with syringe fingers, references within reference within references, but they also built this TV.
Then we had to do this leather thing that he could really break his head through, and we couldn't do it multiple times, really. The behind-the-scenes, we're gonna have bloopers on the physical media, because like his stuff's all falling off, and it's like melting, it's like 100 degrees. If you even watch in the movie, you can see his glasses start fogging, and it kind of makes it even more funny to me, because it's so clearly, like, we're just running out of time. That whole sequence, Sam in the TV is never in the room at the same time all the actors are in the room, because we couldn't do it, the logistics were so difficult, because it took so long to make that happen, I couldn't have them waiting around, and I needed to be shooting other stuff. Because, again, it's so indie, and we're so run-and-gun on this, so when Sam's in there talking, that's me running around, I'm standing in each spot, giving him eyelines, and just talking s--t back to him, because Byron Brown, who plays him, is literally the funniest person I've ever met. He just makes me laugh all the time, so I'm just arguing with him in these perspectives, and he just kept going. Then I came back, and then we're shooting this, and I'm like, "Wait, what are we saying? Well, I said this, so I kind of need you to say it now." [Laughs] Back to Sam and like Rich Sommer's going, "Okay, all right, whatever man, we're figuring it out." It was so fun, and everybody was just so gung ho, but making that all come together was really special, because again, it just was this blue screen here, and it's this mix of so many elements together to make that one gag work, that everybody kept telling me to cut the whole time in prep. They were like, "You need to cut this, you need to cut this," and I'm like, "Nope, no, no, no, I'll figure it out. I'll figure it out. I don't care. I'll figure it out." And we did, so I'm proud of it.

I'm glad you got it, because on TV, they say, "It's prime time, b---h", and I was like, "I know what to expect!"

Aaron B. Koontz: That's what I'm hoping, too, yeah. [Chuckles] Getting the individual to say that that said it, that was also a lot of fun. Because some people were like, "Oh, did you like act it," and it was like, "No, no, I really filmed him saying that." So, that was really, really cool, and seeing his outtakes of saying that is also really, really funny. [Laughs] But, yeah, that's what I want, I think the diehard horror fan is like, "S--t, it's happening!" And that's what gets really gets me excited.

For the one you referenced All these horror movies, if you could get your hands on any of them, would you be willing to bring your vision to a real feature-length movie?

Aaron B. Koontz: God, yes. I will say, we haven't really touched on this yet in [Scare Package], I wanted there to be a reference to Critters. Critters is a movie that I really want to do, a kind of reboot. I actually pitched on it a few years ago, and then they cancelled it, so I have a really crazy idea. It's more straightforward, because I don't want to do all horror-comedy, I love doing horror-comedy, but [I've done] The Pale Door and stuff, and I have another movie I'm doing that's not a horror-comedy, so yeah, there's that. But the holy grail to me would be Friday the 13th, that is the franchise that probably early got me into horror, it's the one that, I mean, I do lists of my favorite kills and everything, that would be something that I would love to explore. But, all of these, just contributing to any of these franchises, I think would be special, because they obviously have a lot of reverence for them. That's what I do really hope with this movie isI hope that folks like yourself, if you watch this with someone else who's maybe not as die-hard of a horror fan as you are, and they see you laughing, and they're like, "What do you, that's funny?" And you're like, "No, no, that's a reference to this, and it's in Hellbound this happens," and they're like, "What's Hellbound?" and the next thing you know, you guys are watching Hellbound. Now, I've just recreated 17-year-old me in a video store being like, "You gotta go watch Hellbound." So that is kind of the hope, that it actually becomes the opposite, that's why there's that line later when I talk about the fandom of this, that's like, "There's no gatekeeping here." I really want this to be a gateway, and I think even though it's for horror fans, and the die-hard horror fans are gonna love it the most, my hope is that it evangelizes other horror to people who aren't. It can be a little bit of both, that's kind of the epiphany, if you will, that this could hopefully reach. But who knows, we'll see if anybody cares enough to do that.

What I like about this movie is that it's not like horror movies, it's an attempt at those horror movies. This is a homage and homage to them. I like that the first one also has a lot of callbacks, and there's even a "time in the woods"-esque melting man. What would you say is your favorite thing to include in this callback?

Aaron B. Koontz: I mean, honestly, that, the fact that we were able to kind of find a way to bring goo guy back, in some way. Kirk [Johnson] is so funny, and what Chris McInroy did there is so special, and he's even wearing the Fright Rags T-shirt from "One Time in the Woods," he's wearing that again. So, finding a way like how do you [do that], because we're trying to stay within our universe, as crazy as it is, what is a movie is a movie, and what is not isn't, so how do you balance that? That was something that, "Okay, well, he's in a movie, so he has to be an actor now," and then, "How can we still get a goo guy out of this?" That was a fun challenge to reverse engineer and come up with a way to do it, which was really, really fun, and it wasn't originally that. In fact, originally, two people at the funeral were Adam Green and Joe Lynch, and they were going to be there, and then they were going to vomit on each other and kill each other.
We couldn't get the timing for them to show up, and then I rewrote it to do the Kirk thing, and I'm glad that I did. Because it kind of, again, those restrictions breed creativity. There's also a few other little [nods], in what Anthony did in "The Night He Came Back Again!," there's a few very specific references that are there. Even when the pseudo killer is like, "Crazy night!" That's one of my favorite lines from the first movie, so yeah, there's stuff in how it kind of plays. I do love seeing — well, that's a big spoiler, so I won't say that. But there's some things at the end that I think are really fun in particular. Then, also, The Devil's Lake Impaler, finding a way of how he can show up. That's the most logical to show up, because he's a killer that can't be killed, so of course, he could blow up in a car, but he can come back, just burnt looking. So yeah, we had to be careful not to find too many things, because you don't want it to feel like you have to watch the first one. But, I think if you do watch the first one right before, I think it'll be even more fun, and I think some of the jokes will land a little harder.

About Scare Package II: Rad Chad's Revenge

When horror master Rad Chad Buckley's funeral turns into a series of death traps elaborately revolving around Chad's favorite movie, the guests must band together to play by the rules of horror in a bloody survive the scene game.

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