B-movies generally fall into two categories: the ones that are just awful and the ones that are awfully good. I don't mean they're actually really all that good, I just wanted to make a lame pseudo-pun. What I mean is that they're still pretty awful, but they do something right, usually being just bad enough to be funny without falling over into the realm of being just plain crap. But then you probably know this already. The thing is that we now live in a culture that, in no small part thanks to the Internet I'd venture to say, embraces and celebrates shit cinema, or shitema, to use the scientific terminology. It's this culture that not only appreciates, but even to a degree respects poorly made films. (Just to give one example, there's the more than substantial following that the piece of shinola 1990s B-movie, Troll 2, has garnered and a documentary, Best Worst Movie Ever, which examines the Troll 2 phenomenon is on its way.)
It is in this culture that we can get something like Freaky Farley, a movie that fits into a third category, a newer category that I believe is entirely a product of our generation, the B-movie that is fully aware it's a B-movie. One of the reasons classic (apparently they get the honor of being called classic now) B-movies can be so funny is that it's evident how hard the people involved were trying to make a decent movie. You're pretty much watching their best effort and it's still a rancid turd. So, I think if we're going to be completely honest here, we're usually laughing at B-movies and those involved, rather than with them. With Freaky Farley, it's sort of like Snakes on a Plane in that this is the kind of film that exists in this sort of middleground where the people making it seem to be, on some level, trying to make a real film, but, at the same time, you feel like you're being winked at throughout the whole thing. I'm inclined to say that, in premise, this sounds like a really bad idea to me because, one, it's unlikely you're going to come out with anything as entertaining as a bad film that is trying to be good and, two, if you think you're talented enough to spend enough time and effort making a movie that pokes fun at (and/or celebrates) bad movies, why don't you just quit screwing around and make a good one (Grindhouse, I'm looking at you)?
However, as it turns out, making a movie in a sort of deliberate B-movie style isn't always as dire a prospect as I'd expect it to be. Sometimes it is (Grindhouse, I'm looking at you), but in the case of Freaky Farley, it turns out, at least in my opinion, to be something of an interesting experiment.
Freaky Farley is the story of a boy named Farley whose mother dies when he's very young. Farley's father takes the death very badly and takes out his anger on his son by taking control of the kid's entire life well into this, um, teens or adulthood...I'm not really sure if Farley's supposed to be a teenager or an adult throughout most of the movie, but he's played by an adult. Anyway, Farley's father makes him stay home most of the time, doesn't let him associate with any women aside from the annoying neighbor girl whom he approves of, and doesn't allow him to enroll in college. Most notably, however, is that he makes Farley dig a hole in the backyard four feet wide and four feet deep, then makes him fill the hole in and then dig it again, over and over. When Farley asks his father what the hole is for, the man responds, "Absolutely nothing. That's the point." It's implied that Farley does this every day from his childhood into his, um, teens or adulthood.
Because of his father taking over his life in this bizarre, controlling manner, Farley develops into a weirdo with no friends who spends his time prowling around town and peeping through girls' windows. Evidently he's not the most covert peeping tom because his oddness gains him a reputation and he becomes known around town as, wait for it, Freaky Farley.
Now, the thing is, from what I've described of Freaky Farley so far, it sounds like some kind of twisted psychological drama, right? But then I've not told you about the other aspects of Farley's town we're introduced to that place the film resolutely in B-movie territory.
One - There's a guy in a ninja outfit who runs around town doing his ninja training. Nobody knows who he is or what his deal is and he's referred to as The Ninja or simply Ninja.
Two - There's a woman in the town who claims to be a witch.
Three - There's a homeless guy who lives in the woods who's referred to as the Bearded Hobo. Whenever anybody talks to him, he spouts off a bunch of nonsense about there being troggs in the woods that he has to deal with and how everyone should stay clear of them. I actually thought he said "drugs" the first time I heard it and I was all, "Yeah, I bet a lot of kids do come to the woods to do drugs. That's a shame."
To its credit, the movie manages to set all this ridiculousness up well enough. It starts out as a weird little study of the relationship between Farley and his father, but there are always mentions of these cheesier elements so it's not as though they come out of left field completely. For example, the Ninja is discussed in the very first scene and the Bearded Hobo mentions the troggs so much that, by the time they show up, you aren't just like "What the shit is this?" Essentially, the film progresses from being quite subtle, to gradually introducing the B-movie elements, and then, ultimately, turning into an all out cheesefest of supernatural ridiculousness and cheap horror effects.
Now, the reason I said I thought the movie was an interesting experiment is that this combination of aspects that are legitimately bad, aspects that are legitimately good, and the question of just how much self-awareness the people involved have of when something's bad or good makes for a really weird viewing. After watching the movie, the behind-the-scenes featurette makes for an awesome companion piece because you get to see everyone discussing the film and can try to decipher how seriously each person took it, because they all seem to do so in varying degrees. For example, the guy who has multiple roles (yet no lines) as the Lyric Poet and a series of troggs, is a friend of the creators and seems fully aware of the ridiculousness of the production, whereas the woman who plays Farley's psychiatrist was someone they found on Craigslist and talks about the thing with a pride like she was involved with an Oscar-nominated production. Additionally, the implication is that the writers (one of whom directs and one of whom, Matt Farley, is the guy who plays Farley) knew when they were deliberately being stupid. However, even that's a bit confusing because when you see Matt Farley speak about the B-movies he is doing direct homages to, he discusses them not like I probably would with my friends (i.e., "This is so retarded, you've got to see it"), but with what appears to be genuine respect. I suppose it's just a difference in perspective; we both find B-movies funny, but he somehow sees them as brilliant in some fashion, whereas I essentially think they're just so bad they serendipitously end up being hilarious.
So, the thing is this: interesting as I find all of this, I am, in my heart of hearts (side note: I am an octopus) an arty, fruity film guy and decidedly not a B-movie guy. It's amusing to see this film so heavily reference the atrocious yet hilarious Silent Night, Deadily Night Part II, both in that the majority of it is told in flashback by the lead character to a psychiatrist in a mental institution, as well that it copies the infamous rampage scene of that film almost verbatim. The acting can also be hilariously bad as the film is populated entirely with people who clearly have no real experience in the field. However, it's difficult to gauge the talent of the lead/co-writer, Matt Farley, since he's pretty much doing an impression of the lead in Silent Night, Deadly Night Part II, a man who "acted" almost entirely with his eyebrows, a lot of unrealistic and drastic body movements, and multiple bouts of unbelievably fake laughter. Then there's some of what I can only assume is deliberately asinine writing that produced lines like "You'll be amazed at the power my fists have" and "I'm suddenly quite ashamed of my nakedness," which definitely made me laugh. I am also a fairly big fan of the fact that there's a character named Air Force Ricky who shows up twice. However, entertained though I was by this stuff, I most appreciated Freaky Farley when it didn't seem to be trying to be a B-movie. Bad acting (deliberate or not) aside, the first half of the film made me actually care about Farley enough that I was disappointed that a dedication to dumby horror outweighed logical character development and, resultingly, turned him into a rampaging murderer.
I've tried to think before of how someone who was all too aware that they were writing a B-movie caliber script could still come out with something as hilarious as the B-movies of yesteryear and what I settled on is pretty much what these guys did (and what a film like Snakes on a Plane did not do). Basically, they do what those B-movies did: they get people to be in it who've had no acting training whatsoever and tell them to do their very best and they write a script that will only use as many settings, effects, and actors as the budget will allow. I think this attitude has to pervade the whole production: the overall idea is to take stupid, ridiculous material, a low budget, and people who can't act and then treat the thing as though, despite all of this, you're making Citizen fuckin' Kane. In other words, you have to put a lot of effort into a production that probably doesn't deserve it. With more authentic (if that makes any sense) B-movies, they succeed because I'm laughing at them or, if we're going to be a bit more kind, because it's kind of charming to see the people try so hard in the face of something that's so obviously total trash. The problem for me with Freaky Farley is that I can't entirely get over the self-awareness; I can't get over the feeling that these guys could toss out all the shitema silliness and just do a cheap little dramatic piece that might actually be good instead of good but also stupid.
This hot girl is only in the very beginning of the movie. I would've liked the movie more if the hot girl was in it longer.
I recognize that I might be asking for too much here. I mean, to take a movie that proudly declares on the cover of the DVD case that it's honoring films with titles like Slumber Party Massacre 3 and Rana: The Legend of Shadow Lake and then go, "Why didn't they do more careful character development?!?" is pretty nuts, but then that's why I'm saying I'd be definitely willing to give these gents a chance if they tried an altogether different production that was non-B-movie related. But then I'm not sure we share the same interests. I understand that the horror film/B-movie types and myself are drastically different animals. I think if you're like the guys who made this movie, i.e. you can't get enough of corny films and dumb horror and are amused by people referencing bad movies, you should check Freaky Farley out. But if I'm going to be totally honest, I'm not going to go out of my way to show this to my friends. It's amusing, but the Internet is jam-packed with the pertinent clips of movies like Silent Night, Deadly Night Part II, Troll 2, and Deadly Prey (the last one isn't a horror movie, but it's still hilarious) and I'd sooner show them that than a whole movie glorifying films of that ilk.
However, I can say this: I ended up watching Freaky Farley twice and it's a totally watchable movie. I know that doesn't sound like a huge compliment, but I really think it is. Most people who think they can just go out and film something (and that's probably, like, most of America) are utterly wrong; they come out with horrid pieces of dreck that are painful to sit through. I had to, as part of my degree as a film major, be part of the crew (I recorded the sound) for a short film that turned out so horribly that I'm sort of annoyed I'm associated with it and I don't bother to show it to anyone. And that movie actually had at least one guy in it who could genuinely act, was done by film majors who are (in theory) supposed to have some notion of what the hell they're doing, and it was only maybe ten minutes long.
The fact that Freaky Farley is not only feature-length (roughly 90 minutes), but that it is actually trying, to a degree, to be a bad movie and that I can sit through it without wanting to hurt someone, is an amazing achievement. Okay, some of the awful acting was really funny (the guy who plays the mayor definitely falls into the "so bad he's good" category) and it's sort of fun that, since I'm familiar with the source material, I can recognize all of the references to Silent Night, Deadly Night Part II, but I still believe that the movie works best when it's not trying to be a corny horror movie and I'd really prefer it if these guys tried their hands at something just a touch more serious. Hell, forget my whole "do some kind of drama piece" thing. I think I'd even look into a straightfoward horror movie or a comedy, rather than a deliberately cheesy movie, if they did one. Interesting experiment though Freaky Farley is, I think, personally, I have to return to what I said before: I'd rather just see a good movie than a deliberate attempt at a bad one.
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