JANUARY 30, 2008
Every now and then I watch a movie for Horror Movie A Day that, sadly, sort of defeats the purpose. An independent film with no formal release severely limits the number of readers who may have seen it, and thus have no way of talking about it afterwards. But I like to mix it up as well, hence why I decided to give Freaky Farley a look (one of the filmmakers contacted me directly asking if I’d like to do a review). So it sort of goes without saying that there’s a good chance I will spoil the movie – read at your own risk! (Note - the film is available to buy here)
What attracted me to the film was the filmmaker’s (and the DVD box art’s) claim that the film was inspired by Silent Night Deadly Night Part 2. I was pretty convinced that no one besides me would ever admit to such a wretched film being any sort of inspiration to them, so I felt a kinship with these folks. And the inspiration is evident early on – the first line Farley speaks is the same as the first one Ricky has in that film (“Are you married?”). In fact this entire scene plays out I think pretty much the same as one in SNDN2. Later, the imfamous “Garbage Day!” scene is homaged as well. Sweet!
The whole movie is a little odd, come to think of it. Our characters include ninjas and a guy who calls himself “Air Force Ricky”; our “hero” only wears black and white striped shirts (even his wifebeater has the same pattern), which suggests Jason Bateman as the Hamburglar; his dad makes him dig a hole and then refill it every day it seems; an old lady attempts to nail Farley in a motel, and a hobo goes on and on about “troggs” in the woods, and unsurprisingly, he’s not crazy. This sort of batshit storytelling and kitchen-sink attitude is always endearing to me, even more so when it’s an independent production (they’d probably have an easier time finding distribution if the movie was an easier sell – so kudos for not ‘selling out’!).
On the flipside, the acting in the film is pretty much across the board bad. And not campy bad either. Folks (particularly the mayor guy) stumble over simple lines, no one ever seems to pause in between ideas (or even each other’s dialogue – so if someone asks a question the response comes before the person would reasonably have time to think of an answer), etc. It’s really odd. With an indie you’re bound to have a few weak links, but here it’s pretty universal (Farley and the girl playing his would-be girlfriend are pretty good, however). Hilariously, my wife came into the room halfway through, not knowing what I was watching (at that point, neither was I – see below), and asked if the characters were retarded. Then again, I can't even play myself properly and know perfectly well that when you want to make a movie yourself you often have to fill roles with less than satisfactory "actors" (see: my short film, which I won't let you see), so it's easily forgivable. Like I said before, when I can tell that the people making the film have a genuine care about filmmaking and aren't just out to make a quick buck, I am more than willing to forgive a few faults.
The other thing about the film is that it moves rather slowly. Our first kill comes at the 55 minute mark. Other than the fact that Farley is telling the story from an institution, there is nothing “horror” about the film at all for until this point. Everyone in the town makes fun of Farley for being weird (or, to be exact, a “freak”), but it’s sort of unclear why, since he doesn’t really do anything strange as far as I can tell.
Still, I can’t help but kind of love a movie with a line of dialogue like “Children shouldn’t have to be frightened of mysterious deaths in the woods.” A little more rehearsal from the actors and a tightened first hour could have improved things greatly. As it stands, it’s an endearing little curio that I enjoyed watching for the most part, but probably won’t be for everyone.
And kudos to the filmmakers for using 16mm film! It fit the tone perfectly and kept the film watchable (had this been on DV I probably would have given up after 20 minutes or so) since it looks pretty good for the most part. There's an odd quality to 16mm that, despite maybe not looking as "good" as 35 mm, gives its films a feel that can't be reproduced with DV no matter what kind of filters you throw on it. Then again, as a film student from New England, I have an affinity for seeing 16mm footage of foliage and other NE-centric imagery. Takes me back...
What say you?