Thursday, 10 December 2015

Freak (1999)

From the deepest darkest recesses of my DVD collection comes Freak, a film, apparently so obscure that only two people on Letterboxd have watched it.

Reading the synopsis on the back of the case:

"It was twenty-five years ago that the horror began; a hideously deformed, physically deformed and brutalised 9-year-old boy murders his tyrannical and abusing mother. Now the horror is about to start all over again..."

This all sound very familiar! Come on, how bad can it be?

The film starts, as in the description, with a young boy being treated like shit by his mother. The mother is suitably nasty and after giving birth to another child tosses it in a brazier to burn. This seems to be what tips her son over the edge and he brutally kills her by bashing in her head with a large rock. Off to the loony bin with you young man! Nine years later (not the 25 reported on the DVD case) he escapes whilst in transport and heads home and straight into the path of a young woman and her kid sister.

Freak is a pretty atmospheric film, with subtle Dutch angles, low shots of the boy's spooky house, shadows and a good soundtrack. Much like Halloween (an obvious influence), Freak is definitely all about atmosphere and tension, although the aforementioned mother killing scene is nicely gruesome.

There are a few silly plot-holes - like why would someone have a shotgun and shells rolling around in the back of an open pickup, and why didn't the killer take it with him? Also, just like in Halloween, the killer mysteriously knows how to drive a truck even though he's been locked up for the past nine years! There is also some unnecessary exposition from a psychiatrist's tape recording. The previous scenes covered most of it quite well enough and I felt it wasn't really needed.

At one point there's a very, very brief shot (less than a second) inserted into a scene of the protagonist being chained up in a van. I assumed this was an editing fuck-up but after watching in slo-mo I discovered that the insert was of the child being chained by his mother. A nice touch, just a shame they didn't make it a little more obvious by increasing the length of the edit by a second or two. These brief flashbacks are a frequent occurrence throughout the film (luckily they are a little longer) and work very well in tying the killer's mental state to the abuse he suffered as a child.

The performances range from quite good to adequate and Amy Paliganoff plays a great Laurie Strode like, proactive, female lead, but the real star is Spider the ferret! I have a real soft spot for ferrets and their floppy ways. The killer is played by the film's director, Tyler Tharpe.

Freak is a nicely atmospheric and effective low budget slasher heavily influenced by Halloween and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre while still retaining its own distinct feel. It's only 75 minutes long and occasionally it does drag a little in places. It could have done with a little more plot substance and a little more tension during the long driving sequences. Some parts are a little out of focus and fuzzy, some are over-saturated and some are very dark. I guess most of these we caused by a limited lens and film choice (I got the feeling that it was shot on various film stocks). The sound is pretty muffled in places and has some occasional unwanted background noise due, I guess, to badly placed mikes.

Not bad at all and it's available on Amazon for £0.01!

Letterboxd Review

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