Freak Out (2015)

Rating: C

Dir: Boaz Armoni
Star: Itay Zvolon, Kye Korabelnikov, Assaf Ben-Shimon, Eran Peretz
a.k.a. Mesuvag Harig

Matan (Zvolon) is a desk jockey in the Israeli army, who gets assigned to a week’s guard duty at a remote communications post. There are three other soldiers also sent there – a trio of tank crew who know each other well – and the officer in charge, Stas (Korabelnikov). Right from the start, Matan feels uncomfortable with this new task, being very much the odd one out. It’s a boring job, and one night, Stas and the other guards drive off the base, leaving Matan behind. He quickly realizes that he may be by himself, but it appears he is not alone, going by the inexplicable noises he is hearing from around the base. Matters aren’t help by a concerning, abruptly terminated phone-call from Stas.

This is definitely a slow-burn. We’re forty minutes in before anything even vaguely creepy happens, and it’s more than an hour before the significance of the two rules – “Don’t go into the bunker” and “Don’t go into Stas’s room” – begin to become clear. Though if you’ve seen many of this type of movie, you’ll likely be ahead of the curve, especially with regard to Stas. There are points at which it feels as if this is going to go in an unusual direction – an opening radio snippet about excessive radiation levels, for example. However, these never gel into a coherent narrative strand, and what eventually ensues is not much more than your everyday slasher, except in fatigues.

The set-up isn’t badly handled, with a strong sense that the post is deep inside enemy territory. The four guards stop on their way their at an Arab restaurant, and it’s a nicely Middle Eastern version of that familiar scene, where city slickers go into a redneck bar, with the soldiers – except for Matan – deliberately pushing the buttons of the Palestinian population, before pulling a dine ‘n’ dash. It gives what follows something of an edge, with Matan worried the locals might be the ones who are sneaking around the base. Again, however, this is not much more than dungeon-dressing. While there is something of a payoff for this mild xenophobia, it doesn’t amount to much, any more than Stas’s tale of a poisoned water-supply.

Zvolon does a decent job. Matan is, to all intents and purposes, a “final boy,” conscientious and pure in comparison to the “bad boys”. Indeed, there are only a couple of female parts, the guards they are replacing. It’s otherwise quite macho though Matan is a bit of a mummy’s boy, to be honest. Yet he is still fairly relatable. His comrades in arms are clearly there as cannon fodder, which just leaves Korabelnikov as Stas, and no prizes for guessing the role he fills. The unusual setting and protagonists – how many slasher films are there about soldiers? – can only go so far. This feels more like a wasted opportunity, with much of the potential left on the table.