Matan, a soldier in the IDF, sets off for a week of patrolling in a remote base in the north of Israel with three soldiers whom he doesn’t know. As the week progresses, the soldiers begin to question whether they will come out of this experience alive.
One thing that’s been fairly interesting about globalization is that it’s getting easier to watch movies from other countries. A lot of countries are pumping out some intriguing films, and I think it’s fair to say that the festival circuit alongside the internet has improved their accessibility. As a fan of horror, I’m curious to see what other cultures have to contribute to the genre. A fresh take is always a welcome addition, so I was genuinely excited to get a chance to watch Israel’s Freak Out.
Freak Out is a slasher film centering on Matan, a member of the Israeli Defense Force. His position normally consists of doing clerical duties. However, he’s been assigned to be on guard duty for one week in an outpost in an area that has a large Arab population. However, Matan is definitely not someone cut out for the task. He’s a thin, gawky, and nerdy fellow who seems ready to jump at his own shadow. He’s constantly texting his mother and is doing everything to get out of the assignment. Accompanying him the outpost are Roy, Ishay, and Uzi, three soldiers who waste no time making Matan’s life hell. The sergeant in charge for that week is Stas, who initially seem sympathetic to Matan’s plight. However, he’s more concerned about being seen as one of the guys and leaves Matan to fend for himself.
On their first night on the base,Uzi, Ishay, and Roy all take off with Stas to go have fun in the nearby town, leaving Matan to guard alone. Matan is of course angry about this, but that anger is quickly replaced by fear as becomes convinced that someone else is on the base with him. Soon things build to a bloody, violent crescendo.
One of the things the movie does well is letting you know the characters. In the first scene with Matan, we get a great sense of who he is as we observe him communicating with his mother. His mannerisms and appearance paints a clear picture. It’s easy to imagine that this was a guy who was picked on when he was a kid.
When you meet his tormentors, it doesn’t take you long to get a fantastic sense of their personalities. How they interact with people let you see that they are a bunch of macho jerks who like to push people around. You immediately know that they’re going to haze the crap out of Matan within moments of meeting them. However, these characters seemed like real people and not caricatures. They way the filmmakers were able to deftly convey so much information about these men so quickly shows a lot of skill in not just the actors, but the scriptwriter and director as well.
Another thing that really helps the movie is that Matan is a truly sympathetic character. If you’ve ever been picked on or bullied in your life, you know precisely how the guy feels when he becomes the butt of everyone’s jokes. If you’re also familiar Israel’s history and its relationship with its Muslim neighbors, you can also see why being in an area with a large number of Arabs around would make him a nervous wreck. This guy seems like a heart attack about to happen. Having Matan be our main character not only works to give us someone we can relate to, but it also adds an air of tension. This is a horror movie, after all, and as we see the abuse get heaped onto Matan we start to wonder if Matan will finally reach his breaking point and start turning his so-called comrades into meat pies.
The only real complaint I have about Freak Out is that the movie won’t hold many surprises for you. It doesn’t do anything you haven’t seen before. However, what it does do it does well. Movie makers don’t always have to reinvent the wheel as long as they make a good product out at the end, and Freak Out fits that description to a “T”. I definitely recommend giving this movie a watch.