Somehow, British slasher comedy Freak Out and German zombedy Night of the Living Dorks both eluded me in 2004—and both came to my awareness at the same time a decade later! Better late than never. And they’re both about geeks who find themselves living the horror they’ve only experienced in the movies.
Freak Out has such a great premise for a slasher comedy. A psychotic dude returns 13 years after kids teased him in school for being a vegetarian, but has no idea how to be a successful masked killer. So a horror geek shows him how to do it right!
It’s a brilliant concept. It’s the execution that’s a mess. While there is some great British humor, plenty of horror references for real geeks of the genre, several funny killer training montages, and an awesome twist that has the young man who taught the killer everything he knows being his main target, there is way too much stuff thrown in that is irrelevant, a bit too quirky for its own good, and causes the movie to drag and lose focus.
Even though Freak Out was shot in 2004, it feels like it’s supposed to take place in the early 90s, which gives it a lot of charm. There’s even a video store and loads of 80s and 90s horror movies posters in the main kid’s room. I so wish the film had been edited to bring out its strengths.
The whole idea of an ineffectual killer leads to some horror comedy gold, from a reversed shower scene to a look at how scary it would be for the killer as he’s roaming creepy woods at night. And when our main guy is being stalked at the beginning of the movie (weird phone calls, killer POV, lights going out), there’s a perfect spoof of classic shower scenes, with him doing the whole clothes removal shtick usually reserved for a female character.
There’s even an odd zombie scenario thrown in there, which is the perfect segue into….
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DORKS
Night of the Living Dorks rules! This one is a German film and the DVD offers both subtitles and an English dubbed audio track. It reminds me of classic teen monster comedy flicks like My Best Friend is a Vampire and My Boyfriend’s Back combined with the adolescent teen comedies of its time, like The Girl Next Door and Not Another Teen Movie.
As you’d expect, there’s this dork, and he is hot for the most popular girl in school. She’s dating the preppy/jock prick who bullies the dork and his buddies.
This is the jock….
Meanwhile, the dork used to be close with the sweet girl next door, but they’ve grown apart since he went dork and she went goth. So what could go wrong when he asks her to hook him up with a love potion in a cemetery?
Before you know it, the three dorks wake up in a morgue as zombies! Being horror geeks, naturally they know some of the rules to abide by in order not to hurt people. Unfortunately, one of the geeks begins to revel in his new life form—I mean, death form—and wants to get revenge on all the people in school who bully him. So what could go wrong when everyone decides to come to the main dork’s house for a party while his parents are away? And by the way—his daddy is hot and I wish he would have stayed in town for the whole movie!
So Night of the Living Dorks isn’t a “zombie outbreak” comedy. It’s just a great teen comedy about three teen zombies trying to become human again. It’s got classic teen flick raunch and hi-jinx, including girl boobs and boy butts. It’s got gross out horror humor, like body parts falling off—including ears, balls, and wieners—and being stapled back on!
There are also some nods to other horror films. The dorks watch the Day of the Dead on TV. One of them discovers that their tough gym coach is into gay S&M (a wink to Elm Street 2 perhaps?). One of the living dorks even slips on the old red leather jacket and does the Michael Jackson “Thriller” dance…to a song that sounds more like it’s trying to imitate “Beat It.”
Amazingly, there’s also a 15-minute alternate ending on the DVD. It features more zombies, takes place at the high school dance, and is reminiscent of school dance scenes from movies like Carrie and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I’m torn between the two endings. The ending that made it to the final product focuses solely on the conflicts between the trio of living dorks as they attempt to cure themselves, yet this alternate ending brings a bit more classic “zombie horror” to the mix, but also jarringly introduces a new threat at the last minute.
Actually, I’m glad to have both endings on the DVD. It would have been cool if you could choose to play the movie with one ending or the other. And you know a movie did something right when you can’t decide which ending you like better. It is too bad Night of the Living Dorks got so overlooked in the U.S. when it was released a decade ago. It is most definitely the kind of movie that would have found a cult following with the Buffy crowd.