“FREAK OUT”— A Transformation

“Freak Out” (“Mesuvag Harig”)

A Transformation

Amos Lassen

Matan (Itay Zvolon) is a soldier with an administrative role in the Israel Defense Forces who is sent for a week of patrolling at a remote army base in the north of Israel. As he deals with homesickness and feeling out of place, he becomes an easy target for the other soldiers who enjoy provoking him. However, it is not long before strange things happen at the base, leaving all the soldiers fearful.

The film looks at the Israeli military experience, an experience that is terrifying, darkly humorous and thrilling. Over the course of the film, Matan undergoes a transformation into a man (by army standards). In Israel, the army is a rite of passage that carries substantial social significance in Israeli society and it signifies the transition from boy to man. Violence and killing are intrinsic values in the process of transition from adolescence to adulthood within Israeli society. The movie also deals with the Israeli fear of Arabs and Islamic terrorism, a fear shared more recently in societies in Europe and North America.

The filmmaker, Boaz Armoni, has said that “Freak Out” comes from his own personal experience. The film describes social phenomena and behaviors that he remembers from my military service and he gives us an alternative perspective on Israeli society. It was important for me to create a film that maintains the Israeli feel, inside a genre that is considered ‘inferior’ where I come from. We feel the influences from other horror and thriller movies from the 19 as well as from the early Israeli comedies that marked Israel film for so many years.

Matan is joined by three other IDF combat soldiers as they’re deployed to patrol a remote base in Givat Kfir, the North of Israel, for a week. Their job is to protect a radioactive transmitter hat blocks cell phone signals and the soldiers must be on high alert from any attacks from their Arab neighbors. As time progresses, the soldiers realize the base is not all what it seems.

Matan is something of a nerd and has never seen combat. Up until now, he has spent his army days working in offices on computers as a military assistant. When he’s called up to compulsory patrol service, he’s disheartened to find he’s been put with a group of three wild combat soldiers— Yishai (Eran Peretz), Roy (Ofer Ruthenberg) and Uzi (Assaf Ben-Shimon) who clearly enjoy a laugh and see Matan as easy prey to poke fun at and exploit. Their constant pranks and humiliation upset Matan who repeatedly texts and calls his mother for support. Even though he tries repeatedly to go home and get a different work order, he is forced to stay the week with the rowdy soldiers. Even his superior, Stas (Kye Korabelnikov), who Matan thought was an ally, uses him as the four soldiers leave base to spend a night out on the tiles. Once up on the watchtower, a frightened Matan realizes he’s not alone.

Matan is bullied in a role he’s not qualified or mentally prepared to do and we immediately see that he’s going to struggle to during his seven days of torment. It’s quite upsetting to see this and the humiliation is pretty difficult to watch and when things begin to become ominous, we know it’s not going to end well. A bunker lit in red holds sinister secrets we’re not sure we want to uncover especially after the film’s opening scene. Tension mounts as the fear intensifies and we begin to wonder if anyone survive.

Claustrophobic scenes and the isolation of northern Israel keep us on the edge of our seats. This is a very effective horror thriller in terms of storytelling even if the film unravels a bit towards its finale. It’s a bit obvious where the film is leading, especially when we come to the final third, but the high quality of performances from the small cast make it a thoroughly entertaining movie. What really pulls us into the film is the terrible way that Matan is treated. If I have any complain at all it is that perhaps the

horror angle could have been developed or polished a little better to improve the movie yet the build up is so well paced and executed that we are immediately gripped.