Friday, January 31, 2020

A Slow Burn to Madness: Freak (1999)

Freak (1999) (AKA "The Last Roadstop")
Rating: **
Starring: Amy Paliganoff, Travis Patton, Andrea Johnson

With a simple title like Freak (1999), you would expect a uniquely intriguing slasher from the late 90s and, in a way that's akin to a double-edged blade, this certainly is one.

Nine years ago, a young disfigured boy living in the dilapidated remains of his home finally snaps when his abusive pregnant mother gives birth and tosses her newborn into a dumpster fire. After rescuing the baby, the boy ends his mother with a rock and soon gets transported to a mental asylum while his sibling gets adopted.

Present day, aspiring artist Staci is moving with her younger sister Jodi to a new house after their parents' death when, at the exact same time, our disfigured killer finds himself being transferred to a new hospital for treatment and gets an opportunity to escape when the van transport's left unattended by its driver. Now free to roam and kill, the bandaged-up maniac eventually crosses paths with the sisters, stalking and closing in on them with plans on kidnapping Jodi for a very macabre reason.

John Carpenter's Halloween (1978) undoubtedly inspired a butt-load of slashers ever since it came out and even to this day, its influence can still be seen in modern slashers with varying success, plenty of which having a heighten up kill count, gore and exploitation. Freak (1999), on the other hand, sought to replicate and build itself around the atmospheric slow burn of the John Carpenter classic and I can certainly tell they tried.

Working around the minuscule budget, Freak (1999) focuses on creating a steady, near-realistic direction and mundane yet unsettling visual elements consisting mostly of moldering houses and long deserted back-roads. Character development, in turn, has quite the spotlight on this movie's plotting as we learn enough about our two sister protagonists to eventually care about them to some extent. Because of this, most of the horror elements get set aside as there's nothing that graphic going on in this slasher in terms of kills with its lack of high numbers and only half of the count bearing strong blood work. Any scares brought up and used are also near absent, but thankfully it work its way back to the movie's climax as Staci is forced to journey into the decaying house wherein all of this horror began to save her sister from our simplistic yet creepy-looking monster.

Strong drawbacks from this movie include long lulling moments where almost nothing significant happen, as well as a shortage other characters either we or our cast could have interacted with which would have made the road trip part of the movie that more interesting. And yet, despite this, there is a unique charm to be found in Freak (1999) as it did courageously attempt something different from your classic bodycounter. Whether you see this as a hidden slowburn gem, or a distressingly limp attempt of a psychological horror, there is no denying this is quite a unique slasher that earns at least a single viewing.

1 female brained to death with a rock
1 female attacked, killed offscreen
1 male seen killed, method unknown
1 male hacked on the head with a hatchet, bled to death
Total: 4

No comments:

Post a Comment