Freaked: Butt Ugly, But Funny!
Ever wonder what happened to Bill of Bill and Ted? Or what the guy who played all of the Oompa Loompas in Tim Burton’s Willy Wonka? What Mr. T would look like as a woman, or what the guy that plays Dr. Loveless in Wild Wild West looks like with legs? Hint: it’s like the Scary Movie franchise met the live action Scooby Doo movies met every ’90s cartoon, mixed in with hilarious intellectual pizzazz. Freaked takes the scathing, incredibly clever humor of the early ’90s (a la Heathers) and twists it into surreal nightmare fun for anyone.
Freaked, co-wrote and co-directed by Alex Winter (the aforementioned Ted), follows Ricky Coogan (it also stars Alex Winter), a heartthrob actor in the movie, as he decides to become the poster boy for a new pesticide. While assessing the damage the chemical is accused of causing in South American agricultural regions for himself, he finds a very different kind of farm. The kind that corrals mutants, monsters and—as promised—freaks. After being kidnapped, Ricky and his gang are disfigured by the very pesticide the actor was planning to promote. Forced to sing and dance for paying audiences, the freaks finally decide to band together and escape the freak farm under Ricky’s leadership.
Freaked is constantly walking the line between strange and beautiful, masterfully tiptoeing around the uncanny valley by embracing the surrealism of the situation. Conjoined people? No, too basic. Half-orc man? Even farther. A hand for a head, a literal cow boy, fire farts? That’s what I’m talking about. I’m honestly embarrassed that, with such a cast line up and on-point scripting, I wasn’t aware of this film until recently. It has everything you need in a cult classic: iconic character design and personality, a colorful backdrop, and solid, memorable scripting. I’m still shook from the Hamlet scene (those who’ve seen it know exactly what I’m talking about).
This film is a love letter, an homage, to the intersection between punk and grunge. There are some vaguely problematic moments, but they quickly rescue themselves by shining a positive light on the situation. Its moments of legitimate intelligence are shining and hilarious, and really solidify the heart of the movie. I’m impressed with this film because of the line it straddles between too much and not enough. There is a clear love for textbook absurdism, from breaking the fourth wall to the freaks themselves. In other words, it takes a really fucking talented crew to make this a purposefully low-brow film legitimately good. We’ve all seen that one movie that tries too hard to be a shitty film and misses the mark, but this one is a bulls-eye.