you hit this site, it's no secret that I recently fell in love with a
little UK horror comedy called "Freak Out". The flick didn't pull any
punches when it came to its slew of horror references and politically
incorrect humor and that warmed my muffins up, just the right way. I had the
chance to play verbal ping-pong with all-around swell chap and
director of said flick, Christian James, and here's what our little match
NOTE: Since I'm a firm believer in all that 'full disclosure' crap, it
should be said that I have a voice-over in the film as the "Looney
Doll". Do with that bit of info, what you will.
What’s your favourite
horror movie and why?
OK! Well, I’m not sure.
There’s stuff that fucked me up, but a
lot of that borders on monkey
spunk in the quality department. Like:
I was about 9 years old. After doing the washing up I decided to
smash a plate full of soapsuds over my sisters face. It cut her to
shreds!!! I thought: If I ran to Mum n Dad in a fit of tears first, I
may get off lightly. It worked like a charm. I got to stay up late
whilst Mum tended to my sisters gaping wound…. (Please! Not that
gaping wound! Sick bastards! It was my MUM for crying out loud). With
Ma’ in the next room and Dad fast asleep on the sofa, there was no one
around to shield the innocent peepers of little Christian James from
those freaky, reverse motion vampires!!! I’m now 27 and still shit
myself when closing the curtains. I’ve seen it since and was a little
let down. Trouble is the image I’ve worked up over the years is 100
times worse. It’s a so-so flick, but Pet Sematary ruins me!!
I find 90% of it an out and out snooze-fest, but when Zelda pops up,
for the love of god, someone help me!!
I suppose Texas
Chainsaw (original) would be in there. I watched it for the 1st
time about 5 years ago. It really got under my skin. It’s the
best horror I’ve seen where you can easily project yourself into that
scenario. Those kinda films just bang around my empty head for days
afterward. I can’t get the ‘What would I do?’ out of my head.
All the usual
suspects would have to be there: Exorcist,
Elm Street 1,
Halloween, Dawn Of The Dead (shouldn’t admit this, but I’m
really looking forward to the remake!) I love Jaws, could
debate endlessly whether it’s a horror or not, but it sure fucked me
up 1st couple of viewings, so in my book it’s a horror. Poltergeist! That’s rather good. Not so keen on the stuff with
the tree, but the rest creeps me out! Best Jerry Goldsmith score,
EVER! Mmmm maybe Gremlins..or The Burbs!
ARROW: You collaborated on the “Freak Out” screenplay with
lunatic and bum feeler Dan Palmer. How
did you two go about sharing the writing duties?
Yes, I came up with all
the good stuff and would stroll around the PC, dressed like a
Beefeater whilst Palmer frantically typed. If he made a mistake I
would stub out my big fat cigar on his ass! (That’s not a metaphor)
I’d say we got
the brunt of the script done in roughly 6 months. We could never
decide on a last act. Whatever we did always felt a bit anticlimactic
(oooh look! A car blows up! - That’ll break the box office). For ages
we had the last third hand written ‘cause we couldn’t find anything
we’d want to commit to. The film constantly builds, very difficult to
top yourself in the final act with no money. What could we do? Have
even more dialogue? Make characters talk three times as
fast? We felt the need to have Merv do something cool before giving
Looney his kiss off. Around this time Dan and myself had the
misfortune to catch Dracula 2000 (or 2001 as it was re-titled
in the UK).
About 20 minutes into
the flick Angelina Jolie’s ex-husband finds out that
can be a vampire
hunter! Oooh!!! Conveniently he’s an Olympic ace when it comes to
firing crossbows, WHY!!!? He’s never felt the need to do this
before!!!! If you gave me breast implants it wouldn’t make me chow
down like Jill Kelly!!!!! Would it?
So we felt we’d
alter the end a tad to accommodate the fact that Merv is an
That’s pretty much how
things worked. We had what we felt at the time was a solid
enough frame. When it takes 3 years to shoot a flick you have
plenty of time to revise your ideas, often
scenes (for the better) a couple of nights before committing them to
We were cconstantly
spinning ideas, and then often putting spins on top of those. I
think sometimes we had lived with, and read the same gags so many
times that we would get bored of them and end up modifying them beyond
recognition. Keeps the viewers on their toes though.
Be honest, was some of
"Freak Out" written “under the influence”? You guys came up with some
pretty “out there” stuff!
Yes, a large part of the
script was written under the influence...of: NO SECRETS! Yes, that
Peter Cushing, Oliver Reed cinematic shit splat happened to be on
whilst myself and Dan ‘took five’ after a heavy session…of writing,
not anal lovemaking. Whatever we wrote it couldn’t turn out as bad
as that. If you haven’t seen it I urge you to track it down. It’s
the best BAD film I’ve ever seen. It’s a good confidence boost to
know that shit like that still stinks out late night TV stations
around the world, 20 years after it was aborted onto celluloid.
Dan was living
with his parents at the time. I would hike my crappy Amstrad PC over
to his place and we would type away in his lounge throughout the
night. It’s a very creepy, quaint old cottage (We used it as the
exterior of Merv’s house). Anyhoo, it always creeped the shit outa
me, I think that may have filtered into the writing a bit. Certainly
in the earlier drafts where we saw it as a ‘Woody Allen’ film set in
‘Camp Crystal Lake’.
We imagined the flick as
more horror than comedy. Alas in the arduous process of fund raising
(you know, the usual: snatching old ladies handbags and making guide
dogs for the blind fight it out in a snake pit for cash) we found
that ‘Scream’ had kick started the wheezing genre back into the
mainstream. We had to change focus of the script and steer it away
from the now standard wink, wink, nudge, nudge horror genre. I
absolutely loved Scream and had a kind of so, so appreciation of the
imitators and sequels. The real influence for me at that time however
was The Frighteners. By no means perfect. I think myself and Dan
really dug the look and feel of it. I loved Peter Jackson’s/Andrew
Lesnie’s handheld yet slick feel to the flick. I think that no matter
how low your budget you should aim high. I think I was kinda hoping
it would come out looking a little like that.
How was "Freak Out"
financed? I’m sure you have horror stories to share about that!
Much like Robert
Rodriguez sold his body to medical science. FREAK OUT co-producer Yazzan Fetto sold his A-hole to local perverts. Thanks buddy, we owe
From local press and
radio we gathered our Executive Producers. Other
than that we managed to wrangle a couple of local arts grants. I
think we’re gonna go to hell for some of the stuff we did! We made a
‘making of’ to go with
one of our applications. We pulled a few cheap
tricks like sitting James Heathcote in a wheelchair for his
interview. We never said he was disabled!!!! Just let the viewer make
that assumption. We wouldn’t let Yazzan on camera for his interview. Although he’s half Arab,
he sounds more British than Dan and
I!! So instead we shot some ‘behind the scenes’ footage and
dubbed him in the most stereotypical voice. Fisher Stevens can
eat our dust!
would you describe the casting process and which was the hardest part
CHRISTIAN: Hmmm. Ask me this
one when everyone has seen FREAK OUT. My answer has great snooze
potential, especially if you haven’t a clue as to the character I’m
referring to. But just for the record, it was Jeremiah Gibble:
the Jim Carrey quoting twat. Quick tip: try not cast people who
through a scene without joint! Or become an expert in writing
characters seamlessly out of the plot.
What would you say were
the more prominent obstacles during the shoot?
CHRISTIAN: The Wayans
were obviously influenced by Sam Raimi (loved the Evil Dead references
in the film), how would you describe
your own style as a director?
It’s early days yet. I
think style is something that may become apparent after 3 or 4
movies. FREAK OUT is my first flick, I was basically trying stuff
out. By its nature, it’s constantly making subtle visual references to
guys like DePalma, Raimi and Dante. I was kinda nodding their early
stuff (not Phantom of the Paradise). So as yet I don’t know
what I’ve taken away from it. I think maybe there is a certain
cutting style to FREAK OUT. That’s something unique to this low
budget flick. I tried to
cut it fast.
I was un-believably strict
with my shots. I would always cut up shots I loved ‘cause the staple
of any first timer seems to be ‘linger on the money shots’. At least
I hope I didn’t do that too much!! I loved doing the
shower scene in FREAK OUT. Whenever you do a shower scene of course
you are gonna draw Psycho comparisms. We tried really hard to
steer it more toward a DePalma-esque, erotique shower scene like in
Dressed to Kill. However, when you’re in that arena and it’s your
first flick, its near enough impossible not to homage Hitchcock in
some way or another. You’ve seen all this stuff for so many years.
You just wanna try on their shoes for ten minutes, see how they fit.
ARROW: Where is the
film at in terms of distribution?
We had UK screenings for
Industry types. Most of them sent their teenage dogsbodies to report
back. To give you an example of the ludicrous state of play in the UK
‘industry’: (I use the term loosely) I spoke to 3 young guys from a
big distribution company after a packed screening. They were going
NUTS about FREAK OUT. Loved it.
The next day, I
rang their Hugh Grant impersonating superior, he told me that it
sounded fantastic! But he was really on the lookout for Scandinavian
films aimed and your mid 30’s age group. Riiiiight! They’re really
the kind of cinema-going demographic you would want to bet your house
on. Good luck!
We had countless
unbelievable responses along those lines.
Problem is you can’t
counter act by saying “what about; Bad Taste, Clerks,
El Mariachi, Slacker, The Evil Dead..etc etc” They
either don’t remember or haven’t seen them. Very frustrating. We have
had offers, but the guys behind them don’t seem to understand what
they are dealing with, or how to put it out there. However, the U.S
response has been fantastic. You guys seem to really get it! We are
actively pursuing many genre and Independent film festivals in the
US. At the moment, it’s a question of sending it off and keeping our
fingers crossed. Our main aim is to make sure as many people see it
as possible on the festival circuit. We want to get as much feedback
from the genre fans as possible and take it from there. We’d really
like to get FREAK OUT under the noses of say an Eli Roth or Sam Raimi. Get their feedback and maybe a point in the right direction.
What’s next for you as a
director? What type of projects do you plan on tackling next?
I plan to film a
documentary about Dan Palmer following in the footsteps of his idol:
Stephen Geoffreys. Also, Uwe Boll has cornered the video game
adaptation market. So instead I’m going to make classic board
games…..badly! Or maybe adapt bad Uwe Boll movies into star spangling,
Choose one: a pair of
titties in your face, going to a gay club or drinking a full bottle of
Jack Daniels. Which one would you like to do RIGHT NOW!
I would swipe the JD and
down the bottle. Smash it over the head of the stripper with her
titties in my face. Then use the shards of glass to cut off her tits
and wear them down to the gay bar! Wanna come?
Freak Out gang "drunk like
skunks" after the "Freak Out" premiere
I'd like to thank Christian James for his time and for the laugh
jamboree that was "Freak Out". I also urge all of you to seek, acquire
and experience the gem that is "Freak Out" with booze, friends, chicks
and a machete in tow. It's a hoot!
READ ARROW'S FREAK
VISIT THE OFFICIAL FREAK OUT WEBSITE