Anchor Bay presents
Freak Out (2004)
"Yeah, you can't help but wonder if teaching an escaped mental patient to kill was a good idea after all."- Onkey (Dan Palmer)
Stars: James Heathcote, Dan Palmer
Other Stars: Nicola Connell, Yazz Fetto, John Fallon, Chili Gold, Tony Rogers, Chris Rhodes, Less Than Jake
Director: Christian James
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language, nudity, gore)
Run Time: 01h:38m:58s
Release Date: 2006-11-07
DVD ReviewA film like the super-indie British horror/comedy Freak Out puts me in a strange predicament. Conceptually, this should be the kind of "hey, let's make a movie" micro-budget experiment that I should be falling all over to recommend, because it is crammed to the rafters with clever inside movie jokes and genre references. Plus, the well-stocked two-disc treatment from Anchor Bay also helped with my anticipation of this one, as if the quantity of material was somehow going to magically be a guarantee that this would be above the bar. The problem is that the finished product just looks very, very amateurish, and while I understand what the filmmakers built out of nothing is pretty commendable, it doesn't make watching it necessarily the kind of experience I wanted it to be.
The setup has an escaped mental patient falling under the tutelage of a pair of horror-movie savvy teenagers who take it upon themselves to turn their new friend into a serial killer. Doody (James Heathcote) and Onkey (Dan Palmer) work their lispy, spatula-swinging, hockey-masked pal pretty hard, and in between Flashdance parody music montages there is cartoonish bloodletting, wacky situations, and a ton of dead bodies, all leading to a bloody, salami-induced climax. On paper, everything looks on the up and up, but sometimes the execution (no pun intended) falls a little short, so even when Doody and Onkey have great little conversations (such as their who's-on-first version of the Frankenstein mythos) it is the overall low rent assembly that drags it all down.
In fairness, I don't really want to say this is a great film just because it was made with no money and a beginner's zeal. Some of what's here works better than other things, but like the rhyme goes, when it's bad it's horrid. Some of the funniest lines are sandwiched between some really groan-inducing moments, and when those start outweighing the better bits it becomes an endurance test. Palmer and Heathcote work well as bickering, movie-quoting friends, and at times they are the only adhesive holding the whole thing together.
I'm trying not to rain on director Christian James parade too much, because I understand the whole low-budget universe he is operating in, and the good news is the dialogue (co-written by Dan Palmer) is often very funny, and scene after scene is filled with little asides to a million different movies, both horror and otherwise. That makes something like Freak Out the kind of film that should at least be noticed by curious horror fans, because while it may be difficult to actually say you "like" it, it would be hard to honestly say that you didn't appreciate the filmmakers' bootstrap enthusiasm.
Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: C+
|Aspect Ratio||1.85:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer shows off all of the low-budget imperfections, most notably a heavy veneer of grain throughout. Edge detail is very soft, with colors looking muted, so overall there isn't much to really heap high praise on. Not much in the way of print damage, but the transfer just looks a little anemic.
Image Transfer Grade: C+
Audio Transfer Review: The audio side of things shapes up better than the video, with a pair of options in either 2.0 surround or Dolby Digital 5.1. This isn't the type of film where either mix will really make or break the experience—it's extremely low budget—but the 5.1 expands the frequent music montage bits, making use of the rear channels. Dialogue is typically clear, but the occasional thick English accent make discerning all the words a little difficult, and the absence of any subtitle options just makes the matter more troublesome.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Night Of The Living Losers, Abominable, Dead and Breakfast, Re-Animator, The Tooth Fairy
17 Deleted Scenes
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by Christian James, Dan Palmer, Yazz Fetto, James Heathcote, Nicola Connell, Chili Gold, James King
Packaging: Gladiator style 2-pack
Extras Review: Disc 1 carries the feature, cut into 16 chapters, as well as a pair of commentaries. The first features director Christian James, actor/writer Dan Palmer and actor/producer Yazz Fetto, while the second has James and Palmer joined by actors Chili Gold, Nicola Connell, and James Heathcote in a track theoretically moderated by BBC film critic James King. I didn't really warm to Freak Out, so two commentaries seems a bit like overkill to me, and with a little work could have probably been done as one. Sure, there's a lot of talk of how the film was made so cheaply, and I suppose that's of interest to up-and-coming filmmakers, plus they all seem to be so enthused about Freak Out that at times I was convinced maybe I had missed something. Again, the accents can be thick at times, especially when more than one person is speaking at the same time.
Over on the second disc there's a good number of supplements, the longest of which is Making Out: Behind the Scenes of Freak Out (51m:01s), a collection of interviews and production footage. Bum Feeling 101 (06m:19s) has Dan Palmer as his character Onkey in the Freak Out museum, discussing the art of, you guessed it, bum feeling. Geek Out (11m:29s) has mock-serious input from John Fallon, who did the voice of the Looney doll while Honey, I Blew Up the Looney (05m:14s) looks at the film's big climax. Also included are a wacky Zaniac Music Video (05m:27s), reinforcing the Flashdance parody to a more detailed degree, with 5-Minute Film School (04m:04s) doing a Robert Rodriguez-influenced look at filmmaking, hosted by the wild-eyed puppet, Arse Piranha.
A set of 17 deleted scenes (47m:16s)—with an intro by Christian James, Yazz Fetto and Dan Palmer—has a couple of decent laughs, but none really has much purpose in the scheme of things. A long form version of the fictitious The Doyle Report (02m:43s) shows up as an extra, as do fake trailers for Arse Piranha (:14s) and Slash Puppy! (01m:43s), which carries some perfectly gratuitous nudity. The Play (03m:41s) is an extended peek at The Blair Witch Project play seen briefly early in Freak Out, and a cable TV interview (06m:37s) with James Heathcote and sound designer Glen Yard.
A couple of obvious easter eggs also show up on Disc 2, including James Heathcote's audition tape (08m:27s) and a scene rehearsal featuring Dan Palmer (02m:22s). The same set of quirky horror trailers (The Night of the Living Losers, Abominable, Dead and Breakfast, Re-Animator, The Tooth Fairy) show up on both discs, and there's also a two-page insert booklet with assorted fast facts about the production.
Extras Grade: B
Final CommentsI tried very hard to fall in with this, because underneath the low-low-low rent production values there were moments of wonderfully inspired movie-geek comedic dialogue that should have really elevated it. Instead, the whole thing plays too much like a comparatively well-made smirky home movie that has a great concept and some sporadic bits of great writing, but collapses under a layer of beginner's cheese.
I can appreciate the whole "no money, no experience" angle of Freak Out, just as I can find no fault with the filmmakers obvious love of the genre, but the finished product is just too uneven to give it a robust recommendation.
Anchor Bay's two-disc treatment is impressive considering, but for me it was just too much of a bad thing. Maybe I'll look at it again and think it's brilliant, but for now, in a word, I'm just sadly underwhelmed.
Rich Rosell 2006-11-07