Anyone wondering what the hell happened to Alex Winter during the wilderness between the release of Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey and Bill & Ted Face The Music (a period of nearly 20 years!) only have to dig out this obscure but exceedingly deranged comedy to find a hugely entertaining answer. Essentially what you’d hallucinate if you stared for an unbroken 90 minutes at the cult artwork of Big Daddy Roth while enduring an LSD inspired manic episode, Freaked is the hyperactive brainchild of Winter plus co-writer and co-director Tom Stern who both worked on short lived MTV sketch show The Idiot Box which features the same absurdly energetic humour. Prepare your funny bone for the ultimate freak out…
Morals adjacent Hollywood big shot Ricky Coogan has just signed a deal with the unscrupulous E.E.S. Corporation (Everything Except Shoes) to be their spokesman to promote toxic fertilizer Zygrot-24 in a small region in South America and flies out immediately to be their “man in Santa Flan” with his hugely sexist buddy, Ernie, in tow. Narrowly avoiding his grotesquely annoying, 12 year old number one fan, Stuey Gluck, on the flight over, Ricky and Ernie are met by protesters on arrival and con militant environmentalist Julie into joining them and the three decide to visit a not-at-all suspicious freak show in the middle of the jungle as all normal people would.
However, the mismatched trio find out that the freak show’s proprietor, one Elijah C. Skuggs, uses Zygrot-24 to mutate tourists into freaks to populate his variety show and so he fuses Ernie and Julie into a feuding, two headed conjoined twin and turns half of Ricky into a green, pus squirting “Beast Boy” in order to be the star of his show. Joining such other misshapen members of the freak show such as Cowboy (a boy cow hybrid dressed as a cowboy), Nosey (his whole head is one giant nose) and the Human Worm (self explanatory), Ricky initially rages against his fate, butting heads with freak leader, Ortiz the dog boy; but when it’s revealed the Skuggs is part of a far reaching conspiracy the facially flawed film star realises he has to accept his new, utterly insane family in order to win the day…
Basically the result of an absinthe fuelled coupling of the anarchic ridiculousness of Ren & Stimpy and the rapid fire joke rate of Airplane, Freaked wastes no time in burdening your stunned, unprepared brain for an hour an a half of loud, obnoxious insanity and sheer mind blowing visuals. A non-stop assault of visual gags, mountains of prosthetics, cartoonish toilet humour and more fourth wall breaking than a dozen Deadpools, Freaked is hardly going to measure up as a subtle, witty classic (it makes Hot Shots look like an episode of fucking Frasier), but as a ferocious, immature treat it’s quite the find.
The first thing you can’t help but notice are the wild designs for the freaks; Winter, while playing the bifurcated Coogan, is buried under masses of hugely complicated (and VERY uncomfortable looking) makeup which he not only acts and directed in, but apparently SLEPT in to save on application time in the mornings; and he’s only the BEGINNING of this magnificent parade of marvelous mutants. There’s also Sockhead: a man with a sock puppet for a head who has the voice of Bobcat Goldthwait; the Beaded Lady who, in an act of unmitigated genius, is played by Mr T; and craziest of all Eye N. Eye, two giant, machine gun toting rastafarian eyeballs who act as Skuggs’ henchmen.
If the descriptions of the characters above are simply too silly for you to wrap your head around then obviously Freaked isn’t going to be your malformed cup of tea, but if relentless slapstick (Stuey Gluck is virtually indestructible for a ginger, grating, buck toothed child) and gross puns (Skuggs’ freakshow not only has a petting zoo but also features a HEAVY petting zoo for the more amorous visitor) is your bag then you’ll be incredibly well served here.
The cast is stunningly good for this kind of awesome trash too, with the aforementioned Winter and Mr T being joined by real life professional lunatic Randy Quaid who predictably hams it up magnificently as Skuggs, not to mention William Sadler, Brooke Shields and, best of all, an uncredited (and near unrecognizable) Keanu Reeves buried under a shit-ton of hair and chewing on a phonebook-thick, Latin accent as Ortiz The Dog Boy.
The very fact this film exists is a minor miracle condidering the fucking thing cost 20th Century Fox 13 million and contains a scene where 13 of the freaks all simultaneously decide to escape all disguised as milkman (“Twelve milkmen IS theoretically possible. Thirteen is silly!”) causing Ricky and Ortiz to engage each other in a knife fight while a bemused Skuggs watches from his window, “That’s an awful lot of milkmen on the same route… no wonder they fight.”
It may not have much money (actually, I don’t think it made ANY money) and a couple of jokes have dated a fair bit, but for sheer dedication to gleeful stupidity and a showcase for some cracking physical special effects, Freaked is a forgotten gem that will make you honk like a hysterical donkey while it has you scouring the screen thanks to it’s countless sight gags for repeated viewing (check out Skuggs’ spelling all throughout Freakland) while proudly wearing it’s cult label for all to see.
It sure ain’t pretty… but boy, it is funny.