Freaked (1993)

The more I look at this DVD cover, the more I dislike it.
It’s got too much Randy Quaid and not enough Freaks.

I don’t really read anything about the movies TCM is going planning to show on Friday nights. The most I do when I go to their website is look up the schedule. That way when I sit down to watch the movie, I go in with no pre-conceived notions. This has made me quite happy on some occasions (Hausu 😀 ) and downright disapointed on others (She Freak 😐 ) Thankfully, this was another weird one that fit into the former category.

We start the movie on the set of a daytime talk show. The host (Brook Shields) is interviewing former child star, Ricky Coogin, seated at the opposite side of the stage and visible only by gruesome, misshapen silhouette. The host asks Ricky how he went from beloved star to a name that makes children scream in terror (cue children screaming in terror just off scene).

Ricky begins his tale by explaining how he accepted a job to promote a new controversial chemical fertilizer called Zygrot 24 in South America, from the corporation E.E.S. (Everything Except Shoes). Ricky is hesitant to accept at first, but they throw enough money at him and he agrees, despite the fact that he watched an E.E.S. employee turn into an Ump Lumpa right before his very eyes.

Bite my new diminutive a*&, Mr. Chairman.

Ricky and his buddy hop on the first plane to South America and arrive to a protest. They manage to con one of the protesters, Julie, into going with them to another ani-Zygrot 24 protest.

Ah, the old “It’s a miracle I’m not completely paralyzed ploy.” Clever, gentlemen.

On their way there they come across several signs advertising a roadside Freak Show.

Random freak show out in the middle of the jungle with a poorly spelled
sign….yup, I’d go to that.

Soon after getting there, they fall into the hands of Elijah C. Skuggs, the owner of the show. But Skuggs doesn’t just own the show, he makes all the freaks in the show too, using the ever helpful Zygrot 24. The three of them are now trapped, forced to participate in Skuggs demented Freak Show and desperately trying to find a way to escape and get back home.

You’re immediately tipped off at the start of the movie that Freaked is going to be a little off the norm. The opening credits are a combination of static objects, claymation, animation, and seizure inducing early MTV backgrounds.

You can see a decent resolution version here:
WARNING: I’m not kidding about the backgrounds.

I found it absolutely fascinating to watch, though it did hurt my eyes a bit. However, you realize very quickly that that opening sets the tone for the entire film. The sets and costumes of the film are exciting and vibrant, especially once you get to the Freak Show. And since the movie was made in 93, the special effects are stunning and visceral. The freaks are all well designed and the effects and puppetry used to bring them to life are at once impressive and humorous.

The characters themselves are entertaining, but mostly one dimensional. They are all very quirky and, for the most part, likable, but most of the freaks sadly don’t get much screen time. The majority of them, the man who continuously farts fire for instance, are there solely for the sake of being a sight gag. But that doesn’t mean they’re not fun as hell to watch. Bobcat Goldthwait is only on screen for a couple of seconds, but does an excellent job of voicing Sockhead:

Don’t worry. Sockhead and his googly eyes will save you.

One exception is Skuggs. He gets plenty of screen time and Randy Quaid depicts him with his best… Randy Quaidiness.

In my new park there will be nothing but crazy eyes for as far as my crazy eye can see.

Plus, who doesn’t want to see Mr. T as the bearded lady, giving beauty tips on stage?

“I am woman.”

And lets not forget the quirky sight gags and multiple movie references. This movie is chalked full of them. This movie references everything from (a perverted) Gumby to The Exorcist. At the beginning of the movie Brook Shields asks Ricky what movie they showed on the plane. He replies, “Blue Lagoon 2.” Shields: “Oh, I heard that sucked.” Just about every other line is an inside joke or reference. Hell, Ricky is practically turned into a half Gremlin

To eat after midnight, or not to eat after midnight…

And when it’s not doing that, it just throws randomness at you until you go WTF

Giant talking, Rastafarian, eyeball guards in Converse sneakers…
Probably not something I’d come up with myself.

Really, there’s so much going on in this movie that I’m sure it’d take another viewing or two to pick up half of it. Freaked is essentially one giant, self aware inside joke.

Overall, Freaked came across to me as a combination of an Airplane!/Mel Brooks movie, cross-bred with the TMNT live action films. It’s wacky, but entertaining. New, yet nostalgic, and doesn’t take itself too seriously. I enjoyed it for it’s wacky, dark humor and self awareness, but at the same time I didn’t enjoy it as much as Hausu or the films mentioned above. So if you like movies like Airplane! and Blazing Saddles or are tired of all the current film generation’s CG effects, than give this one a try.

Freaked is available on DVD and Blu-ray, though it seems like it may be a bit hard to find these days.


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