Anchor Bay // 2004 // 103 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // November 7th, 2006
Trained to kill...by idiots.
This zero-budget overseas horror-comedy generated some positive buzz when it was running in film festivals. Now it is available for your home consumption, and guess what: the buzz is well-earned.
Merv Doody (James Heathcote) and his slacker best friend Onkey (Dan Palmer) fill their simple lives with the pleasures of horror movies. Merv considers himself quite the expert in the genre, so much so he lectures kids at the local video store about the proper films to watch. So when a simple-minded, hapless mental ward escapee happens upon his doorstep, Merv spots a prime opportunity to put his useless knowledge to the test: with the help of Onkey, he's going to fashion "The Looney" into the perfect serial killer.
Unfortunately, Looney's gentle disposition keeps him resistant to the aggressive training. So Merv and Onkey try harder, going so far as to place their creation in scenarios that are just begging for a serial killer to present himself (i.e., a man and woman copulating in the woods). What the two pals aren't ready for is Looney unleashed, the slasher curriculum fully kicked in and the maniac running wildly with his blood-soaked spatula.
Freak Out is the shiz-nit, and a complete surprise. At first glance, the film may look like another one of those godforsaken Teen Ape movies, a homegrown feature made by talent-free kids with too much time on their hands. While the folks behind Freak Out likely had too much time on their hands, and the production is obviously homegrown, they are far from talent-free.
This movie is frickin' funny, goofily gory and ultra-energetic. In the tradition of Peter Jackson's early splatter-ilk, Freak Out is a surreal, totally unpretentious dose of lightning-paced insanity. The shots are short and fast-cut, the dialogue is delivered rapid-fire, the gore is blink-and-you-missed it (but effective nonetheless) and the story is PCP-laced. In short, this movie is awesome.
Freak Out mirrors a film like Bad Taste in more ways than just the dark humor and the over-the-top gore -- it also took an excruciatingly long tome to shoot. Spread over the course of four years (!), Freak Out was an epic undertaking by a crew of guys who had -- as the making-of documentary notes -- "no experience, money or industry contacts." These dudes shot when they could, often only relegated to a couple of hours a night at their locations, concocted visual effects on the cheap, and were forced to be creative in their casting (e.g., "The Looney" was played by several people). The miracle of this film is that it honestly looks like a seamless work. Or maybe I was just so caught up in its delirious energy that I didn't notice.
The flick moves at a relentless clip and the jokes are so tightly packed into the proceedings it may require another viewing or two to get them all. Thing is, it's worth the effort, because these guys are damn hilarious. The humor isn't inside-joke laden (as far as I can tell), which is something that usually bugs me about these ultra low-budget horror-comedies. The jokes work, the atmosphere works, and the characters work. Is the story ridiculous? Of course it is. But it's an original concept and pulled off well, thanks to the melding of the aforementioned three elements. The film is powered by Palmer and Heathcote, two likable chaps playing obnoxious, detached-from-reality characters, but they aren't nearly as annoying as they could have been. Buddy movie? Horror comedy? Wise-cracking young bucks? Typical recipe for oblivion, but the fellas land the deal.
Lastly, the gore. There is healthy amount of blood that flows in this movie, though it looks a notch or two below the realism of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which should clue you into the type of budget the filmmakers were working with. Of note: the gratuitous, slime-drenched You Can't Do That on Television-inspired finale.
Anchor Bay has put together a healthy two-disc set for the film. Disc one includes the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen feature. The video quality is soft, but that has much to do with the equipment these guys were using. A 5.1 surround accompanies, and it's okay, but it's not a show-off disc for your audio gear. Two commentary tracks, one with director Christian James, Dan Palmer and producer Yazz Fetto and the other with James, Palmer, Heathcote, actors Nicola Connell and Chilli Gold and BBC movie critic James King. Both a lively and insightful. Disc two: "Making Out," a well-done documentary tracking the making of the film and its successful journey to Fantasia Fest in Montreal, "Geek Out," a disposable featurette with several Internet critics talking about the film, a music video, a goofy sketch called "Bum-Feeling 101," a "Five-Minute Film School" showing some low-budget filmmaking tips, a walkthrough for the big explosion in the finale and 17 deleted scenes.
My one big complaint is the runtime; the movie could have been trimmed 15 minutes for a leaner, meaner experience. It dragged en route to the big ending.
For fans of horror-comedy, who appreciate it when the comedy is actually, you know, funny, I highly recommend this movie.
Review content copyright © 2006 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 103 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Two Cast and Crew Audio Commentaries
* "Making Out" Making-of Documentary
* "Geek Out" Internet Critics Featurette
* Music Video
* "Bum Feeling 101"
* "Five Minute Film School"
* "Honey I Blew Up the Looney"
* Deleted Scenes
* Official Site