I have no doubt that 99% of the folks reading this review have probably never heard of a film called Freaked. It was shot back in 1993 with a surprisingly substantial budget ($12 million) for this type of film, but it never saw the light of day beyond one or two film festivals. I can only guess that the writers/directors managed to get it made without any studio oversight, and once the final print was screened the execs recoiled in abject horror at what their millions had given birth to and immediately buried it. However, like a zombie it has risen from the dead and was recently released on DVD.
Freaked is one of those movies that puts you in a dazed and confused state until you finally settle into the rhythm of the thing. Imagine a Abraham/Zucker film (Airplane!, Kentucky Fried Movie) without the (cough) subtlety. 8) It’s gross and at times cornball, but it has a spirit of reckless abandon to it that puts a grin on your face when you think of the brass it took for these guys to make this movie.
The basic plot of Freaked follows former child star Ricky Coogan (played by Alex Winter from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure) from Los Angeles to South America in order to lend his celebrity status to the EES (Everything Except Shoes) corporation. EES produces a fertilizer call Zygrot 24 which is getting a lot of negative press because it’s toxic according to everyone (except of course, EES).
Ricky and his obnoxious buddy Ernie (Michael Stoyanov) fly down to “Santa Flan” where they are greeted by a bunch of protestors. The leader, Julie (played by Megan Ward) is replete with a little red beret and a t-shirt that states “Save the Burrowing Sloth”. Julie is of course, Ricky’s future love interest.
They head off down the road and stumble across Elijah C. Skuggs (played with glee by Randy Quaid) and his “Freek Land” park. He tricks them and ends up turning them into freaks for his show, with Ricky turning out particularly grotesque. Soon we meet all the other freaks in a bizarre version of the old TV show “Hollywood Squares”, including an uncredited Keanu Reeves as “Dog Boy”.
Eventually Ricky’s denial of his transformation turns to concern for his fellow freaks when he learns of Skuggs’ diabolical plan, and things get stranger and wierder as the movie moves along.
A couple of notes:
1. I watched this sober.
2. I’m about 20 years older than the target audience.
3. While watching it I imagine that for most of it I had a look of confusion on my face.
Freaked goes way over the top to get it’s laughs, and there were some things that I could have done without. A bit at the beginning with a rubber hand sticking out of Ernie’s zipper seemed stupid, I thought they could have been as funny without the abundant amount of foul language, and a scene with a man and a kangaroo should have been left on the cutting room floor. And if you’re easily grossed out this is not the movie for you.
Having said that, I have to say this was one of the most imaginatively bizarre flicks I’ve seen in quite a while and it did make me smile and laugh. If you’re a big TV and movie geek (like I am) you’ll pick up more TV and movie references than I could count. They hit on everything from Green Acres to The Exorcist and plant tounge firmly in cheek while poking fun at a ton of standard movie conventions.
While some of the humor is cornball, some is so brazen that it’ll take a second to register. One example was when Skuggs was selecting the settings for turning our heroes into freaks. On the computer monitor the arrow scrolled over “Deform” to a sub-menu containing “A Little”, “A Lot”, and “Michael Jackson”. Non-sequiturs also abound throughout the flick.
Another thing that’s a trip is seeing so many familiar faces in this movie: Brooke Shields, William Sadler (the villain from Die Hard 2), Morgan Fairchild, Mr. T, Larry ‘Bud’ Melman, Ray Baker (the “virtual reality” salesman from Total Recall) and a cameo/voiceover by Bobcat Goldthwait.
Considering how long ago this was made, and the type of movie that it is (a screamin’ “B movie”) the quantity of special features on the DVD (it’s a 2-disc set) floored me. There’s a director/writer commentary track, an extended interview with one of the writers which is quite funny, and tons of “making of” stuff. Go figure.
Freaked definitely isn’t for everyone, and in my opinion it certainly shouldn’t be rated PG-13 (who made THAT stupid decision???) but as a “beer and buddies” movie you’ll find it funny and, well… wierd.
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