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FREAK OUT (2003)

Freak Out
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Reviewed By Dead Kev

Bum-feelers! That's right, if you're reading this right're a bum-feeler! By the way, while I'm saying that I'm laughing hysterically and pointing at you. Yeah, I know you can't see me, just trust me though.

What a ridiculous way to start a review, right? Sure it is, but after watching Freak Out I'm in a bit of a nutty mood. It made me a little slaphappy me thinks. If you haven't heard about Freak Out yet, you have now and I'm confident you'll be hearing more and more about it in the near future. It's a hilarious new independent horror/comedy film from the UK, straight out of the warped minds of Christian James and Dan Palmer. Both of whom wore several hats on the production. James directed and Dan pulled acting duties, while both produced and collaborated to write the script.

At its core, Freak Out is a heartfelt story of two best friends, Merv Doody (James Heathcote) and Onkey (Dan Palmer), striving to make their home, the isle of Redwater Cove, a better place. No, I'm lying. It IS about two friends named Merv and Onkey, but the story centers on their pet project of taking a hapless (and very effeminate) escaped mental patient under their wing and teaching him how to be a real serial killer. That is indeed a noble cause, the world needs more good citizens like Merv and Onkey.

I've always wondered how one would go about finding a down-and-out mental case so I could help train him on ways of murder and mayhem. Merv's so damn lucky; he finds one in his shower! A huge slasher film geek, Merv is excited about finding this psychopathic monster, however the feeling is quickly dispelled when he finds out that this serial killer couldn't find his way out of a wet paper bag. Or better yet, a potato sack.which is what he's wearing on his head. But boy, does he know his way around a kitchen! As the light bulb turns on in Merv's head, he knows that there will never be a better time to put his extensive horror movie knowledge to work. It's a wild ride of butchery and bloodshed as Onkey helps Merv transform their newfound friend into a real-life horror.

It's rare that I laugh as much at a movie as I did during Freak Out. I think I literally busted a gut. That would certainly explain the stain on my chair. It's so silly and so absurd, but it's absolutely hilarious. It's such a goofy script, yet at the same time it's very intelligent. It's a comical send-up of classic horror films like Evil Dead, Friday the 13th, and the like. Unlike movies like Scary Movie though, it's more than just a satire, much more than just a parody. Those films make the gags the centerpiece and the plot seems more like an afterthought, while Freak Out uses the gags to compliment a genuinely funny storyline. So there's plenty below the surface, and it has a much more natural flow to it. The jokes come in bunches, a lot of them random and out of nowhere, but they aren't forced down the audience's throat. Instead, they sneak right up behind you.then smack you in the back of the head.

For an independent film, the most surprising aspect for me was the fact that the acting was great! Once I got used to the accents (most likely not a problem for those in the UK), I wasn't distracted by anyone's performance. Heathcote and Palmer have very good onscreen chemistry (perhaps more than we realize?), and are quite believable as best buds. Heathcote is praiseworthy as the loveable loser, and Palmer does a first-rate job as the annoying sidekick who, more often than not, is responsible for getting them into trouble. The dialogue is all delivered with ease and director Christian James does a terrific job guiding the film from behind the camera. Lots of savvy camera work, deftly shot scenes, and solid editing make for a visually stimulating journey, and really go a long way in making you forget this isn't some big-budget production. And as much as it's pleasing to the eye, it's just as pleasing to the ear. Composer Stuart Fox's work on the film is some sweet ear candy.

Freak Out doesn't always play it safe, as there are several obscure references and politically incorrect gags. And in the bravest move of all, it managed to take an antique television icon, Larry Hagman (of Dallas fame), dust him off, and make him a main theme throughout the movie. While he's not actually in the film himself, his very existence plays a large role. This is someone who, for the most part, has been out of popular culture for a while now. To resurrect his iconic status and bank on it for a lot of the laughs is ballsy to say the least. It works and the gamble pays off big. That's a huge testament to the cleverness of the script. And if you're an 80s fan like myself, you'll be happy to know that there are many other 80s tributes in the film as well. Larry's in fine company.

Another point of admiration is the restraint they must have used not to tap into the now overused gross-out humor that is so prevalent these days in comedies. Yes, the humor is at times very juvenile, but it doesn't stoop into the realm of low-browdom.very often. While I'm aching to describe some of the film's gags, every one that I want to mention is too good to ruin. Trust me, it's better to see the movie having no clue what will pop up next. You'll thank me for it after you see it yourself.

So what have we got so far? How about a great script, cool music, solid acting, some arse piranhas, a few zombies, plenty of horror spoofs, and a serial killer that's a tad light in his loafers. That's enough for me, I smell an Oscar. No wait, that's me, I must have soiled myself during the movie. Regardless, Freak Out's a winner and is destined to be a fan favorite!


(Out of 5)
August 7, 2003 (UK Premiere)

As long as you're not a stickler for "serious" humor, you'll laugh laugh your ass off. If you're looking for zombies, it's got 'em, but just a few and in a very minor subplot towards the end. Freak Out's a new favorite of mine and I know I'll be re-watching it many times in the future.
1. Never gamble your money in a drinking contest with lesbians.
2. When in a battle with a serial killer, humming the theme song to Dallas soothes the savage beast...sometimes.
3. Don't let your friends start a massacre at your workplace during your first day on the job.
-"Why don't you just slap on a Tampax and watch Dirty Dancing, you big girl."
-"You never get laid off by a boss...with no head!"
-"Meat is murder!"
-"I really must get my hands on your Ghoulies."
Freak Out premiered on August 7, 2003 at The Harbour Lights Picturehouse in Southampton, Hampshire, UK.
While the main cast consists of unknowns, Freak Out features two pretty cool cameos.
Filming took three years to complete and the budget was raised completely by the cast and crew. It was shot in southern England on 16mm film.
Official Trailers
Christian James Interview - Arrow in the Head
Dan Palmer Interview - Arrow in the Head

Christian James
Christian James
Dan Palmer
Stuart Fox
James Heathcote Merv Doody
Dan Palmer Onkey
Yazz Fetto Looney
Nicola Connell Abby Flappstein
Yazz Fetto The Sheriff
Chili Gold Cherry
Desmond Cullen-Jones Old Man Wilson
James King Merv's Boss
John Fallon Looney Doll (voice)
Jane Scarlett Scream Queen
Beyond Therapy Entertainment
Anchor Bay Entertainment
United Kingdom
92 mins TBA

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