Monday, April 30, 2012

Micro Review [Film]: Freaked

The Meat

The early 90s had a very unique and peculiar trash aesthetic that occasionally washed up on the shore of pop culture. If you're able, remember back to Spike & Mike's Sick and Twisted animation festivals, Ren & Stimpy, GWAR, and Green Jello's Cereal Killer Soundtrack, which all shared a Rat Fink-meets-Evil-Dead-II, eye-bulging, vein-popping style. Alex Winter (Bill S. Preston, Esq. of Bill and Ted fame) and his NYU film school friend Tom Stern embraced this aesthetic whole-hog, and were asked by MTV to produce a sketch comedy show called The Idiot Box. When that show was done, someone at 20th Century Fox inexplicably gave them $10,000,000 to make what become 1993's Freaked.

In Freaked, Bill (I'm just going to call him "Bill") plays a moronic TV celebrity who accepts a dump truck full of money from an evil corporation to go to South America and talk up a controversial liquid fertilizer, but falls afoul of a crazy freakshow operator who turns him into the hideous "Beest Boy," and throws him in with the rest of his mutated menagerie, all created using the liquid fertilizer in question and, apparently, a Nintendo system. The result is -- starting with the opening credits -- a brutal, stomach-churningly disgusting, insane, partially claymated gumbo that I expect you're either really going to love, or man, you're just not going to want to watch a single frame of. This film effectively derailed Bill's career. After its release (into only 2 theaters, Wikipedia tells me), Bill went from the co-star of a successful comedy franchise to a guy who didn't work again for four years, only to return with roles such as "TV Gangster" and "Subway Passenger."

For my part, I loved the Bill and Ted movies, and was partial to Bill above Ted, so I root for Bill, and he seems to have a pretty successful career now, especially as a director. And I expect Alex Winter must be pretty smart, and a hell of a nice guy, because here are some of the people who agreed to appear in Freaked, which was clearly never, ever, ever going to be a successful mainstream film: Brooke Shields, Keanu Reeves, Randy Quaid (not widely known to be crazy at the time), William Sadler (the wonderful character actor who next appeared on film in The Shawshank Redemption), Bobcat Goldthwait, Michael Stoyanov (at the time on the highly successful TV show Blossom), and Mr. T (who plays a bearded lady). I remember seeing a tidbit about this movie on Entertainment Tonight when I was maybe 15 years old, and being really excited that Bill was going to be in a new movie, but that was the last I'd heard of it until Turner Classic Movies scheduled it as part of their TCM Underground series this past weekend. So as much as I wanted to like the movie, and was excited to finally see it, I can't get behind it. I love cult movies that happen by accident -- amateur filmmakers who stumble across something evocative, Hollywood outsiders who build truly inept films around interesting ideas, or people who manage stunning feats of filmmaking with almost no resources. But Freaked seems to be one of those films that aspired to be a cult movie, and that, to me, is a fool's errand. Sorry, Bill.

The Math

Objective Quality: 2/10

Bonuses: +1 for the intriguing supporting cast; +1 for the makeup and effects which are grotesque but quite accomplished

Penalties: -1 for a pervasive we-know-how-clever-this-is attitude while not actually being very clever.

Cult Value Coefficient: 3/10

[See explanation of our non-inflated scores here.]