Interview with Freak Out Writer / Producer Dan Palmer
By James Whittington, Thursday 15th June 2006
Anchor Bay UK has just released a special edition of the cult favourite, Freak Out. This bizarre, hilarious and incredibly inventive movie was made with no budget and no help from any studio. We tracked down writer/performer and co-producer Dan Palmer (Onkey in the movie) for an exclusive chat about the movie and his plans for the future.

Tell us about your background and where the idea for Freak Out came from.

I studied at a film school in Bournemouth, England – that’s where I met Christian James (Freak Out’s eventual Director and Co-writer). We hit it off as we dug the same kind of movies, plus we were the two youngest students in the college and the majority of our peers thought we were a pair of obnoxious juvenile punks… they were right. When we left college we were wary of going straight into the first television or film job that came along ‘cos the jobs we had witnessed people in the years above us going into bore little relation to what we really wanted to do. So instead of making sandwiches on the next Bond or Harry Potter we decided to try and make our own flick.

An older student in the year above me had previously raised money and filmed his own 16mm feature. He invited me to be an extra on the movie and he would happily show me rushes on a movieola. I can remember seeing the exposed footage of my 1.5 second role and thinking to myself ‘this is what I wanna do..’. The student was Edgar Wright.

A while after Christian made a black & white short film entitled ‘Bank Holiday Monday’ which was a satire of slasher flicks. Knowing that I would be a fountain of useless gore-movie knowledge he had mined my demented brain for hack and slash info whilst putting the film together. So when we decided to make a feature we went back to his short film and used its basic concept as the foundations for what eventually became FREAK OUT.

Freak Out took four years to make, so how did you keep your enthusiasm for the project? Was there ever a time that you wanted to just give up and do something else?

It’s weird, after awhile it just became a regular part of your life; do the washing up, feed the cat, shoot the indie movie.. so I never really took time out to reflect on it that much. People outside couldn’t really understand what the hell we were doing, girls didn’t understand; I go for the crazy, self-involved types and the impressiveness of making your own flick soon wears off for that particular species..

There was a point about a 100th of the way in when Chris talked about making the movie into a short and I shit my pants and thought it was all over. Short films are redundant and inherently self-indulgent. Thankfully Chris changed his mind and we never looked back. So many things went wrong; our 16mm Arriflex got fried, our sound got stolen, an elderly actor died - we could have quit a number of times but we never had a deadline so it’s not like we had to have the film in the can by a certain date.

The movie has been a huge hit on the independent film festival circuit, picking up a few awards on the way, has this come as a shock to you?

Am I allowed to say no? I actually am a little annoyed at some of the festivals that turned us down. We would often be duped into thinking that we had a great chance of being included, we’d send off our extortionate entry fee and then eventually we’d get told to f**k off. I understand that film festivals struggle almost as much as us indie filmmakers but I really believe that they should come up with other means to raise their funds. Kids are spending every penny they have on making their films and then they have to fork out just for the pleasure of submitting their film with no assurance that they will actually get in? It’s a flawed system.

But winning the award at Rhode Island and having six hundred plus Canadians go absolutely ape at Fantasia in Montreal were two amazing developments. (Neither of those fests charge by the way..)

How did you decide on the horror/comedy balance, as many horror comedies just don’t work?

I always say that Freak Out is a comedy/horror as opposed to a horror/comedy. For me there are three types of film within this genre; there are your reality based horror/comedies such as ‘Shaun Of The Dead’, ‘American Werewolf..’, ‘Slither’ etc, then there are your cartoonish ‘spoofs’, crap like ‘Scary Movie’, ‘Repossessed’ etc and thirdly there’s the rarely mined sub-genre, where I think FREAK OUT belongs, the comedy-horror – films like ‘Wacko’, ‘Class Reunion’, ‘Return Of The Killer Tomatoes’, ‘Elvira’, ‘Burbs’ ‘Student Bodies’ etc. But don’t let that put you off.

Did you have a specific audience in mind whilst writing this movie or were you doing it just to entertain yourselves?

I sort of pictured the present day equivalent of me when I was 15. The kid sat in his bedroom covered in Freddy and Jason posters on a Friday night watching slasher flicks and screwball comedies whilst drinking coke and eating junk food instead of going to a party. That’s who I wrote FREAK OUT for and that’s essentially who our lead character Merv (played by James Heathcote) is.

Where did characters such as the Larry Hagman fans come from? You must have a pretty “side-ways” view on life?

There’s a scene in the flick that calls for a mob of rabid fans to be present in a shopping mall, initially we had a fake boy-band doing a signing and we thought that had so been done before, so that got us to thinking ‘Who would be the most surreal and unlikely sex symbol for a mob of teenage girls?’ Larry Hagman was your answer.

How proud are you of the finished movie?

Very proud. I am not arrogant enough to say that FREAK OUT’s perfect but it’s the flaws that have endeared themselves to a lot of fans. As a writer I look back and wish we had added a few layers to Merv’s motivation, some of the day-players I ain’t happy with and as a performer I wish I had more time to rehearse as there’s one or two scenes that make my stomach do back-flips. But on the other hand reviews have been very flattering towards Onkey - so, what do I know?

We made a movie with no money, no industry contacts, no rich parents and no common sense. We all had to juggle jobs and/or college. To have simply completed the damn thing would have been an achievement but to have it wow festival after festival, get all these fantastic reviews and for it to be released by a company like Anchor Bay? Well that’s just plain f****d up. My dad’s in it for God’s sake!

The movie has plenty of slapstick as well as surreal comedy in it, was there any major influences in your lives that are reflected in you film making?

It was my 5th birthday, my mum and dad drove me and my sister all the way up to London from Bournemouth not telling me where I was going. I was extremely excited and being only 5 my imagination was going wild – thinking I was going to meet the Ghostbusters or something. I had made many guesses but each of them wrong, eventually, after what seemed like an eternity, we arrived in London and my parents revealed to me that I was going to… Holiday On Ice. A crappy song and dance ice show that, it turned out, my SISTER wanted to go to; NOT me. Needless to say I was seriously ticked off. Cut to us at Wembley watching grinning idiots skating around in spandex and fake tans when a Ringmaster suddenly cries out ‘Bring out the birthday boat!’ A boat the shape of a runner bean comes out on the ice and a gang of DWARVES jump from it pulling kids into the boat whose birthday it was. Needless to say, I was on their list. Being cripplingly shy at the time and a tad p*****d off at my shit birthday surprise I wasn’t particularly enamoured by being pounced on and clawed at by a mob of midgets with the intent of pulling me into their vegetable shaped boat with a packed Wembley Stadium looking on.

I believe it was this incident that shaped and influenced my artistic outlook on life.

The film has loads of laugh out loud moments in it, the shower scene in particular had my side aching, was it difficult to keep a straight face?

Not really, ‘cos it was a scene we really wanted to get right. It’s the first scene where Merv and the Looney meet so we knew it had to be a good one. The scene didn’t actually take place in a shower until the 11th hour, it was originally intended to be filmed on a flight of stairs but we could no longer use the house that we had used for Merv’s home. Because the bathroom was the only room in Merv’s house that we hadn’t already seen we just relocated the set-piece to a pal’s bathroom and re-wrote it to fit. It’s one of those instances where we used a negative to actually improve upon the flick. There’s a hefty section within the DVD’s 50 minute making of dedicated to the shower sequence. Something for the ladies...

What was your budget, how did you raise the money and how did you set about realising some of the SFX shots?

We never really had a full budget in the bank. We’d raise a chunk of cash and film until we ran out then try and raise some more. We did go back and tally up the donations and it came to just under £30,000. For financing we initially tried official industry channels like The Film Council but we soon realised that we had more chance finding a monk in a red light district so we slowly but surely got donations from kind-hearted business folk in and around our local area. Most where happy enough to give us a small sum just to get their name in lights, one of our financiers; Simon Nurrish caught the bug and eventually became a hands on member of the team and is now one of us. One of us! One of us!

When people ask me about SFX shots my first reaction is ‘What SFX shots?’ There’s a moment towards the end of the film where we yank soundman Glen Yard’s lower torso clean form his body, we realised this by stuffing a pair of trousers with newspaper, taping shoes to the ends of the legs and placing Glen in a manhole down to his waist. We loosely attached the false legs to his midriff and covered the torso stumps in wallpaper paste coloured with red food dye. When the killer yanks the fake legs away from Glen’s stomach it looks like his gams are ripped clean off (economical editing is also required for such slap-dash movie ‘magic’).

Was it difficult trying to sell the movie to distributors? Again, did you ever feel like giving up?

Very difficult. It would have been more understandable if industry people had just said; ‘We hate it, go away’, but instead buyers and distributors would watch the movie, laugh their arses off, tell us they thought it was great but there’s no way that they can buy it! They didn’t know what the hell it was, an independent movie made with a bubblegum approach. It was particularly frustrating in the UK ‘cos there was an obvious element of snobbery and cynicism from the film world. Who were these upstarts that dare make their own film? Then the websites got hold of the flick and went crazy about it, the festivals followed and then ‘Shaun Of The Dead’ came out which suddenly turned snotty UK film execs into overnight horror aficionados.

Anchor Bay UK has produced an excellent, extras packed DVD release for the movie, how much input into this fabulous package did you have?

God bless Mo Claridge. He was Anchor Bay UK’s head honcho, a real William Castle type. One of the few to put faith in us and our work. The amount of doors we had slammed in our faces during the FREAK OUT period had pretty much hit its peak by the time we got the news that Anchor Bay wanted the movie. Ultimately, this was Mo’s decision and he’d seen something in the movie and in us that encouraged him to take a chance. He was particularly enthusiastic about what we were going to do next. He saw potential in us and we’re indebted to him for doing so. He sadly passed away on Christmas Day and never got to see FREAK OUT released.

Thanks to Mo, we pretty much had carte blanche with the DVD so we knew exactly how we wanted it. Being fans of the format we knew what consumers want and we were also well aware of the ‘debut filmmaker ego-syndrome’ where you get a first timer talking like he’s Kubrick and Mamet’s lovechild or something, so we do go out of our way to lampoon ourselves.

So what’s next and will there be a Freak Out 2?

We have a very bizarre dark comedy/horror that would be fantastic to make next, I’ve written the lead for myself and Chris would direct, I think it’s something that will really strike a chord and touch on a lot of subjects that young disturbed people will relate to. But it all depends if we can get the right backing.. and if Chris can decide what format he wants to film on! As for F.O 2: LOONEY BOOGALOO? If the DVD does well and fans want it and Anchor Bay are willing to pony up the dough then I’d love to don the Hawaiian shirt and baseball cap once again. On set we were always coming up with ridiculous situations and scenarios Merv and Onkey could get themselves into for a sequel, so we have plenty of ideas. And YES we’ll try and have more naked chicks and gore.

I think we’d happily do a ‘Merv & Onkey’s Bogus Journey’.

Thanks very much

Cheers guys.

Tom Paton, director of G-LOC chats about his passion for survival stories and being compared to Roger Corman
Posted on Tuesday 14th September 2021
Tom Paton on the set of G-Loc-3-1

Ahead of the Horror Channel premiere of his sci-fi action thriller G-LOC, director Tom Paton reflects on why making movies is like solving a puzzle, his passion for survival stories and being compared to Roger Corman.

Horror Channel will be broadcasting the UK TV premiere of your Sci-fi adventure G-LOC. Excited or what?

It's honesty so strange to me every time Horror Channel debuts one of my movies. The channel has been such a big part of my life growing up and informing my taste in films, that it's always a "pinch myself moment" when I see something that I've made appear on their TV listing. G-LOC is much more of a SCI-FI adventure than any ...

Interview with Alexis Kendra, the writer and producer of The Cleaning Lady
Posted on Tuesday 15th June 2021
Alexis Kendra-4

Ahead of Horror Channel's premiere of The Cleaning Lady on June 26, the film's star, writer and producer Alexis Kendra talks about playing a 'Goddess', coping with lockdown and why she can't watch horror films on her own.

HC: The Cleaning Lady is having its channel premiere on Horror Channel. Excited?

AK: I love you guys. Always have, always will. I'm honoured.

HC: It's a very disturbing film, dealing with abuse, addiction and hidden rage, yet the characters are sympathetic and have real depth. It's horror with a twisted heart. As a co-writer, alongside your director Jon Knautz, what were the main challenges in getting the balance right between acting and writing? <...

Interview with Jen and Sylvia Soska, directors of Rabid
Posted on Tuesday 1st June 2021
Soska sisiters-WEB-1

Ahead of Horror Channel's premiere of Rabid on June 12, Jen and Sylvia Soska reflect on the challenges of re-imagining Cronenberg's body horror classic, meeting the great man and their new monster movie, Bob.

HC: Rabid is having its channel premiere on Horror Channel. Excited?

SS: The Horror Channel has supported us and our work since the beginning, so it's a special treat to have the newest film premiere there!

Js: We are so excited. Having Rabid on Horror Channel feels like coming home. They've been very kind to us. We are happy to have so many of our films on there.

HC: We all, of course, remember that Rabid was one of David Cronenberg's earli...

Interview with Mickey Fisher, creator of sci-fi series Extant
Posted on Thursday 6th May 2021
Mickey Fisher 1

Horror Channel will be continuing its commitment to bringing cult and classic sci-fi to its audience with Seasons 1 and 2 of the CBS Studios/Amblin Television production of Extant, starring Halle Berry as astronaut Molly Woods, who returns home to her family, inexplicably pregnant after 13 months in outer space on a solo mission.

The series begins on Horror May 11th so, we decided to chat to its creator, Mickey Fisher about how the series came to be produced and what it was like working with Hollywood royalty.

HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to be a writer?

MF: From the time I was maybe five or six years old I wanted to be an actor. Going to see Star...

Interview with Gary J. Tunnicliffe, writer and director of Hellraiser: Judgement
Posted on Saturday 20th February 2021
Gary J. Tunnicliffe doing SFX make-up on the set of Hellraiser Judgement

Director and long-time Hellraiser franchise SFX artist Gary John Tunnicliffe has a new entry into the Hellraiser series for us all to enjoy, Hellraiser: Judgement. Here he chats about this gritty horror.

HC: Was there one person or film which inspired you to want to be in the effects industry?

GJT: I can't remember one film that directly inspired me to be in the effects industry, it would definitely have been around 1982 (when I was 14) when The Thing AND American Werewolf in London came out (as well as a mass of FX laden movies) but more than anything it was when s...

Interview with Chee Keong Cheung, director of Redcon-1
Posted on Wednesday 17th February 2021
Director Chee Keong Cheung

Fast-paced British zombie thriller, Redcon-1 will be having its UK TV premiere on Horror on Saturday 20th February so we decided to chat with its writer and director Chee Keong Cheung about this acclaimed movie.

HC: Where did the idea for Redcon-1 come from and are you a fan of zombie movies?

CKC: I'm a huge fan of the zombie genre and in particular, Danny Boyle's '28 Days Later', Zak Snyder's 'Dawn of the Dead' and of course George Romero's original works which helped to pave the way for the genre and was a real inspiration for me growing up. I remember watching 'Saving Private Ryan' and 'Black Hawk Down' on TV and had always been drawn to the men on a m...

Interview with Scott Reiniger star of the original Dawn of the Dead
Posted on Sunday 15th November 2020

On the eve of a stunning new 4K box set of George A Romero's Dawn of the Dead from Second Sight Films, we chat to one of its stars, Scott Reiniger about this incredible film.

HC: How did you first become involved with Dawn of the Dead?

SR: Well, I was in New York, I was a stage actor in New York and I went to college with Christine Forrest, who later became George's wife and she asked me if I wanted to audition for this film called Dawn of the Dead, she wanted to know if I knew who George Romero was and I said, "Yeah, he was the guy who directed Night of the Living Dead". So, they sent the script over and I read it and it was pr...

Interview with Steve Speirs, star of Concrete Plans
Posted on Sunday 1st November 2020
Concrete Plans poster

Welsh, Scottish and Ukranian dialects clash in Concrete Plans, a stand-out movie from Will Jewell which has just been released by FrightFest Presents via Signature. Its a super and very dark thriller with an outstanding cast headed up by Steve Speirs. Here he chats about this amazing piece.

Be warned this interview contains some spoilers about the movie. If in doubt watch the movie before reading. You have been warned!

HC: Was there one actor of one film you saw when you were younger that made you want to be an actor?

SS: Oh, I've never been asked that actually. When I started to get into watching films, I'd always wanted to be an actor for as long as I can ...

Interview with Shayne Ward, star of The Ascent
Posted on Thursday 22nd October 2020

A special ops team on a mission in a war-torn country find themselves trapped on a never-ending staircase that they must climb - or they die! This is the premise for Tom Paton's superb, action-packed horror The Ascent which is having its UK TV premiere at 9pm on October 23rd. Here its star, Shayne Ward tells all about his career to date and how he became involved in this sci-fi shocker.

HC: How much did the X-Factor change your life?

SW: Oh, like anyone can say who has been on it, who has done well on the show, it does change your life because it catapults you into the limelight, into the public eye. One day you are relatively unknown...

Interview with Ryan Kruger, writer and director of Fried Barry
Posted on Sunday 11th October 2020
Fried Barry

Anyone who as been to Grimmfest will know that the team behind the event try their very best to bring to their audience films that challenge and push as many envelopes as possible. Fried Barry from director Ryan Kruger is such a movie. Packed with mind-bending imagery and and emotional punch, this polarizing movie has to be seen just for its creativity and strong storytelling. Here, Ryan chats about this incredible movie.

HC: Where did Fried Barry come from?

RK: Fried Barry was born out of total frustration where I was in my career. I am known in South Africa as a music video director for doing narrative story telling within music vids and sharp visuals. Although I al...

Interview with Deiondre Teagle, star of Death Ranch
Posted on Sunday 11th October 2020
thumbnail_Brandon Blood

Grimmfest 2020 is packed with new talent and one actor that stands out is Deiondre Teagle who styars in Charlie Steeds' grindhouse homage, Death Ranch. Here Deiondre explains his role and what it was like being part of such a bold movie.

HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to be an actor?

DT: I've definitely known my whole life I've wanted to be an actor. One of my favourite movies of all time is the original Men In Black. When I was little (about 3 or 4 years old), I would re-watch my VHS copy of that movie over and over and over again. I would re-enact every scene. Since then, my love for acting and film has just grown. I have such a love for the...

Interview with Faith Monique, star of Death Ranch
Posted on Sunday 11th October 2020

Grimmfest 2020 is packed with world premieres and none so bold as Charlie Steed's Death Ranch. We chatted to one of its main stars, Faith Monique about her role in this brutal and brilliant movie.

HC: Was there one person you saw at a young age who inspired you to want to become an actress?

FM: Funny fact, I grew up without a TV! So, at a young age, I never had an actor that inspired me and to this day I still don't. Acting did not become a dream of mine until 2016 and for inspiration, I like to dig deep into my own soul to find truth to bring into each character.

HC: Are you a big fan of horror movies and were you aware of grindhouse and e...

Interviews Archive: 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006
Wednesday 22nd September
9.00 PM
Thursday 23rd September
10.55 PM
The Remaining
Saturday 25th September
9.00 PM