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Lights, Camera, Idiocy by FullAuto Written on 24th June 2006

Directed by: Christian James.
Cast: James Heathcote, Dan Palmer, Nicola Connell, Chilli Gold.
Released by: Anchor Bay.
Release date: 29th May, 2006.
Running time: 98 mins.
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1.
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0, 5.1, DTS 5.1.
Languages: English, English HoH subtitles.

The sheer stupidity of Freak Out attracted me like a suicide bomber to plastic explosive. The cover alone piqued my interest, shamelessly flaunting it's moronity (not a real word). I couldn't not pick it up, and when I turned it over to survey the blurb (something I rarely do) the words "Trained to idiots!" took hold of my brain, slapped it around and said "You're buying this, pal." So I made the classic consumer mistake of buying something based on the cover.

And what a mistake it turned out to be.

Mervin Doody (aka Optimum Speed) is a horror film geek. His bedroom is wallpapered with posters, he regularly indulges in the lows of crappy horror films, and his only romance (apart from the local video shop clerk who is obsessed with him) is with the starlets who pop their tops in said films. One dark night, Looney, a pathetically incompetent murderous lunatic (dur) turns up at Merv's and fails to kill him. Falling in love with the inherent possibilities, Merv and his best mate Onkey (a gaudily-dressed arcade-running jailbait-luring lothario) attempt to turn Looney into the definitive killing machine.

Click to enlarge
Onkey could be subtle, when necessary.
Yes, it is just as retarded as it sounds. Made over four years for less than 30,000, it's quite obviously a labour of terribly geeky love. Fettered by budget restrictions (and sometimes simply not having a budget at all), the film looks cheap as shit. I wish I could say it more politely, but there's no point. The look of the film is amateurish, with little to recommend the cinematography except the excellent editing. The prevalence of 80s-style montages is slightly retro naff-cool, and although there is a slight over-reliance on them, they fit comfortably into the feel of the film. Picture quality is fine in well-lit scenes, but in low-light conditions it's a lot grainier, sometimes to the point of irritation. Some of the filming locations do not match at all well with what they are supposed to be in the film, though Salem's Slots does look exactly like every shitty arcade I've ever been in. Job's a good 'un there, lads.

The amount of care that has went into the various homages and outright piss-takes makes them particularly notable and singles the film out for those of us in the horror cognoscenti, though not all of them concern horror films. Other cinematic classics such as Beverley Hills Cop II and The Karate Kid are referenced, along with various horror luminaries. You've seen films take sly jabs at other films, genres, and genre conventions, no doubt? Well, Freak Out takes wild drunken swings at them, and blatantly announces it too. Admittedly, I didn't notice half of them the first time I watched the film, because A) I was out on the pop the night before and B) The world fell out of my arsehole halfway through the film, but upon subsequent viewings I noticed several that are nothing less than genius. Evil Dead, Friday the 13th, Nosferatu, Nightmare on Elm Street, they all get a look in. Indeed, Looney's entire appearance is a conglomeration of killers from other films.

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"Jesus Christ, cut this jumper off me!"
The effects make up for what they lack in quality, with quantity. Wounds gush like hoses, and even though the blood appears to be some sort of fruit juice, there's gallons of the stuff spurting everywhere, so I'm not complaining. Realistic gore was obviously too expensive, but that doesn't seem to have slowed them down any, quite cheerfully pouring on buckets of cheap claret with gusto. The violence is amusing, thanks to the over-the-top gore and, er, off-key acting.

Alright, look, the acting's shite, okay? Still, criticising this film for having bad acting is like tearing into a Holocaust documentary for having Jews, or a porn film for including nudity. It's an integral part of the film, which is entirely necessary in order for it to work. Hamming it up consistently and without remorse only makes the violence, jokes and references even funnier. At times, the dialogue wanders into the realms of the terrible instead of the terribly funny, but it is saved from true shitness by the sheer amount of overacting. Either on it's own would make the film crap, but combined they have a strange effect. Like the Combaticons combine to form Bruticus.

What? It's a Transformers analogy, and quite a good one. Oh, fuck off.

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Michael Biehn still had bills to pay after Terminator.
Shockingly, the audio is excellent. The soundtrack boasts tunage from bands like Payola and Deadbeat Radicals, who have put together some very professional and catchy tracks. This hearkens back to the halcyon days when lots of films regularly had songs written for them, but without being shit. Sound effects and other music are likewise top notch, and technically, sound is by far the best area of the film. It seems like Freak Out was filmed with the cheapest camera possible, accompanied by a full studio of sound equipment. Perhaps their initial plan was to make a film for the visually impaired?

Humour is far and away the film's strongest (some might say only) point. It proves, over and over again, that a lot of laughs hides, repents and forgives a multitude of cinematic sins. The film bills itself as "The Ultimate Experience in Gruelling Immaturity", and, well, it is. The best Down's Syndrome mockery I've ever seen (and I've seen a few), an unrelenting deluge of gags and cheap laughs, a whole scene that is one big joke about Onkey's cock, numerous references and outright mockeries. It really does not ever stop, but not in a shit Scary Movie way. This film is the definition of cult, made by film fans for film fans. It's the sort of flick that weeds out people who like cult cinema because it's the in-thing at the moment, from real nipples-hard fans. Any film that has bum feeling as a central plot mechanism and uses it to bring the story full circle, will certainly skim the scum off the deep pool of film love.

The DVD is a two-disc set. Disc 1 has the film and two commentaries, one from the crew (with cameo appearances from Jim Carrey, Ben Stiller and Kenneth Branagh, of all people) and one from the cast and crew. Although informative about the film, this takes a back seat to jokes, stories about people who once/never were in the film, tales about everyone's private lives, insults and various other tangents that have little to do with the film. Fucking funny, though.

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"Let me help stop that nosebleed...fuck. Sorry!"
Disc 2 has a Making Of that covers the four year shoot of Freak Out in a mere fifty-odd minutes, taking us from filming to the screening at the Fantasia Festival in Montreal. The Bum Feeling 101 sketch stars Onkey and Merv (who looks quite ill, by the way. Presumably all that bum feeling has given him AIDS. Or something) in a quick guide to self-fondling. Geek Out features several famous Internet film critics raving (no, not the one with E, the other one) over footage of the film.

For some reason, I'm not on there.


The music video for the song Zaniac stars the cast of Freak Out, generally monging it up in the same fashion as the film. The Arse Piranha and Robert Codriguez five minute film school is simultaneously a poor spoof and a good look at just how the creators of Freak Out raised the cash (hint: they lied. A lot. And put Merv in a wheelchair. Not permanently). Honey I Blew Up The Looney documents the eventual explosion of a special effect and the police turning up. Whoops. Deleted Scenes offers sixteen sections cut from the film, quite a few of which actually have decent jokes in. One or two are better off deleted, but most of them could (and should) have been left in.

Click to enlarge
Merv's application to Al Qaeda was rejected.
The Video Store contains no less than five shorts. The Doyle Report is an episode of a chat show in the film, with Merv and Onkey being grilled by presenter Doyle Del Fury. A trailer for Arse Piranha 2 (don't ask.). Slash Puppy, a slasher starring a girl who quite obviously took all the right vitamins when she was growing up (the resulting excitement almost popped my jeans, as if you needed or wanted to know that). The Blair Witch, a play that obviously has nothing to do with the film The Blair Witch Project as the titles are totally different. Last, and nowhere near least, is a cable TV interview which was meant to feature the film's creators. But they were unavailable, tossing it off somewhere, so the totally unprepared sound designer and lead actor stumble through it instead. Unmissably excruciating.

Sick. Immature. Offensive. Riddled with jokes and homages. Features several cracking pairs of breasts and Larry Hagman. Freak Out is a true cult classic.


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