When a film strikes a chord deep within you, I’m talking
about when it really speaks to you on a profound level, it’s indescribable.
Everyone has a film that holds a special place in their heart, regardless of
the quality or popularity of it. If it means something to you, that’s all that
But as you get older, something happens. You begin to forget
the sort of magic that certain movies create within you. And soon, the film
that you could watch everyday, the one you could watch without ever getting
tired of it, changes. You begin to notice the flaws and wonder why you even
liked it in the first place. We grow up so, naturally, our tastes change. We
can’t do anything about that. But what we can do is look back at those films,
forget whatever’s bothering us in this hectic day and age and remember a time
before everything got so serious.
Every week, Long Lost Cinema presents a film
that you may have forgotten; for no particular reason, aside from the fact that
life simply got in the way. Cult flicks, forgotten classics, guilty pleasures-
they’re all here for your nostalgic pleasure.
Today, we rediscover 1993’s Freaked.
Who would’ve known that Mr. T was so in touch with his
feminine side? Don’t believe me? Watch what Entertainment Weekly
calls “one of the greatest films you’ve never seen.” Okay, maybe that comment is a little grandiose, but if you’re
ever in the mood for something really outlandish, something that has absolutely
no limits, then watch this movie.
Co-directed, co-written and starring Alex Winter (the Bill
S. Preston of the Bill & Ted series), Freaked
is a story told in flashback about spoiled actor Ricky Coogin who was once a
popular child star. Desperate for the
fame that has eluded him since he grew out of puberty, Coogin’s life changes
after he accepts an offer to be the poster boy for a mysterious multi-million
dollar company called E.E.S. (the “Everything Except Shoes Corporation”). The set-up of the film is pretty
lightweight, which is obvious from the get-go; it’s clear that Winter wants to
waste no time in getting to the freaky stuff and it happens pretty
quickly. Soon, Coogin and his friends
encounter Elijah C. Skuggs, the owner of an off-road freak show. The demented showman captures them and turns
them into “hideous mutant freaks”, using the same chemicals that Coogin signed
his face away to advertise.
From that point on, the film jets into a different, wholly
outlandish direction. Once he’s turned
into a half-man, half-monster mutation, Coogin meets the other members of
Skuggs’ freak show and, boy, are they quite the motley crew of character
actors. There’s Worm (a half-man,
half-worm genius), Nosey (a guy whose entire head is one big nose), Cowboy
(half-man, half-cow), the bearded lady (Mr. T!), Sockhead (a head consisting of
one large sock) and the Eternal Flame (in which a flame is forever lit under the
man’s ass). It’s a weird film for sure,
but one that deserves the audience it has yet to find. Simply put, this flick is the ultimate cult
film. It premiered at the Toronto
International Film Festival back in ’93 to an ecstatic reaction but faced
problems at Fox studios after a change in management brought the film to its
knees before it was even released. Its
eventual release was minuscule and thus it disappeared quickly without a
trace. It was only until a number of
years later that Freaked was discovered on late-night television
and given a new lease on life thanks to some kind words by Ren &
Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi.
Like I mentioned last week, 1990’s cinema had a very unique
identity; one that was full of imagination and an abundance of creativity. Freaked is the epitome of
1990’s cinema. Add to the fact that,
prior to making the film, Winter worked on the MTV show The Idiot Box,
which pretty much guaranteed that unique MTV feel I talked about. There was a distinct generation X aura
floating throughout his show and his film; some call it a sense of arrogance, I
call it a sense of fun.
Freaked was made on a small budget, which
meant Winter and his crew had to think on the seat of their pants in order to
make this film look different than any other.
The result: a film that literally looks like a comic book come to life,
warts and all. And there are a lot of
warts in this film. I’ll admit, there is
a lot of juvenile humor splattered throughout, which may turn off a number of
viewers. But there is just so much fun
being had by the actors and the film is so full of life that it
practically dares you to turn away.
I love the film for the sole fact that it was clearly made
during a time in which producers appreciated the wackiness of imagination and
didn’t always think with money being the be all to end all. It didn’t last for very long, seeing as how,
with the aforementioned change in management, the film was buried before it
even had a chance to shine.
Freaked also stars the great William Sadler
(the Knight in Demon Knight) as the president of E.E.S. as well
as an uncredited and unrecognizable Keanu Reeves in the brief role as Ortiz the
Dog Boy. All this goes to show that the
actors felt that the film was something that comes along rarely in Hollywood- a
fun, wild ride that carries no inhibitions or ulterior motives, aside from the
fact that it just wants to entertain you for ninety minutes, no more no
less. Freaked shows you
what to expect within the first five minutes of the film, which is what I find
so great about. It establishes a world
right away and, whether you like it or not, it’s going to drag you through
Skuggs’ nasty freak show in order to get you a front row seat to that
incredible blow-out of an ending. And
believe me, this film literally explodes in the end. I sincerely believe that most of the film’s budget was used in
the ending for the simple fact that it shone the spotlight on the artform of
Claymation with great effect. This is
where the cartoon comment I made earlier comes into play. It literally throws everything at you but
the kitchen sink; some things stick, others don’t.
Freaked is a film that deserves an audience,
but not just any audience- one that isn’t afraid to dabble in the underground,
forgotten world of generation X. It was
made by a bunch of kids who wanted to break the rumor that they were angry
slackers who were given everything in life but couldn’t amount to
anything. Watch this film and come to
realization of what the 1990’s were all about.
Next week, we rediscover Near Dark.