Freak Out (DVD)

Freak Out DVD (click for larger image)Starring James Heathcote and Dan Palmer

Directed by Christian James

Distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment

Horror spoof films have mainly been the domain of the groan-inducing Scary Movie franchise, but in more recent years horror fans have had better options to choose from like Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s Shaun of the Dead, which showed us that there’s no need to be xenophobic about the possibility of British humor not connecting to American horror audiences. But does Freak Out entertain internationally?

Merv Doody (James Heathcoate) is your average horror lover. He’s got posters, replicas, video nasties and the nerdy look. He’s very content to lead a plain life of renting bloody DVDs and eating chips in bed. That’s about it. His life seems very familiar, to this reviewer at least, and even nerds have friends. Onkey (Dan Palmer) is the cool fool with all the wisecracks and ability to score with women by using the smallest amount of effort. All is good and plenty until a dark, mysterious and slightly sissy masked mental patient enters their lives. Now, what could a horror genre fanatic possibly do with an easily led nutjob? Make your own personal murdering machine!

Ok, it is easy to see that this story has a shitload of potential for hilarity even with a super thrifty budget. On many levels Freak Out entertains. Spotting various film references from classics like Evil Dead, Friday the 13th and various zombie flicks can keep the audience occupied most of the time, but eventually one’s attention will have to focus on the actual story and acting.

Freak Out‘s only real downfall is the comedic timing of just about everyone. Dan Palmer has it most of the time, but he is the funniest when he usually has nothing to say. Don’t go into this movie expecting to see the next Rik Mayall or Ade Edmondson; it just won’t happen. Do, however, enter the experience ready for an offbeat look at the stereotypes that have plagued many good and bad movies associated with our favorite genre.

Freak Out is to be applauded for never having to stoop to repeating the same annoying joke over and over like some other horror/comedy pictures do. We are so lucky not to have to see Dr. Phil or Shaq exchange any sort of dialogue whatsoever. Come to think of it … there isn’t a whole lot of bad dialogue throughout the whole movie.
The acting isn’t bad either. Sure, the bits that are supposed to be funny fall flat more often than not, but rarely does the viewer ever wonder, "Why did they even waste money on this?" There was a moment of worry at the start of the feature that involved a few kids that were in dire need of acting lessons, but that was the only real eye twitcher.

It’s a real pity that the Looney never becomes a more interesting character. Sure, he hates meat and kills people with a spatula, but by the end of the movie, after he explodes over a joke (?!), there’s nothing to remember aside from an orange jumpsuit, potato sack and a hokey mask. He did make me hate ketchup and tomato paste more than I already do. Does that count?

Freak Out DVD (click for larger image)Overall the movie feels like it needs to be edited, not for outrageous content but because some parts drag for no reason. At about the halfway mark things just drop off and the laughs nearly end. Even this was pointed out in the commentary track. Whenever Freak Out turns serious, nothing funny induces so much as a chuckle. It could be that the film has an uneven feel or an error in pacing? Could be, but either way it can sometime grate on the viewer’s patience.

So we have a watchable movie that has more interesting visuals than story, but what about the extras? Oh, laddie, you are in luck. The special features flow out of the second disc like a fat woman trying on size two jeans. First let’s tackle the audio commentary. The audience has two to choose from. One is only with director Christian James, Dan Palmer and actor Yazz Fetto. This track is the more boring of the two. You get to know all about the trials and tribulations of shoe-string filmmaking, but it’s all a bit of a yawner. Screw that and switch it over to the second track which includes James, Palmer, Heathcote and actresses Nicola Connell and Chili Gold. This commentary is much more energetic and interesting. The cast is proud of what they’ve made, and they should be since it was a far more fun flick to watch than, let’s say … Machined!!!

On the additional disc the special features just keep going. It is packed full, even more than many recent blockbuster movies. The Video Store should be first on the hit list of things to check out. These short spoof films are, to be honest, funnier than the whole of Freak Out. While Making Out and the deleted scenes can be easily forgotten, things like Arse Piranhas 2 aren’t. Hell, even the Zaniac is a more fun ride.

Honey, I Blew Up the Looney is a behind-the-scenes look at one of the final scenes of the film. It, like the other making-of featurettes, goes from cool to meh until things blow up. It is nice to see what goes on when making a cheap film for those who are interested in filmmaking, but for the general audience these things may be the victims of the menu button after a few minutes.

Out of all the low budget movies I’ve reviewed so far, Freak Out passes them up even with its flaws. It is a true horror fan’s film. If you’re a big indie fan or a hardcore horror genre geek, then this is your bag, no question about it. Get it, get inspired and make your own film so we don’t have to put up with things like The Covenant.

Special Features
Commentary by director/writer/producer Christian James, actor/writer Dan Palmer and actor/producer Yazz Fetto
Commentary by Christian James, Dan Palmer and actors James Heathcote, Nicola Connell and Chili Gold, moderated by BBC Radio 1 movie critic James King
Making Out behind-the-scenes featurette
Geek Out featurette – Internet movie critics expressing their views on the movie
Bum-Feeling 101 sketch featuring the characters of Freak Out
5 Minute Film School – humorous and informative film school-type tips
Honey, I Blew Up The Looney featurette
The Video Store spoof films
17 deleted scenes
Easter eggs
Zaniac music video

4 out of 5

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Mike Phalin

Mike Phalin is a contributing writer, reality television star and engineer.

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