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Freaked (DVD)

Starring Alex Winter, Randy Quaid, Michael Stoyanov, William Sadler, Keanu Reeves

Directed by Tom Stern and Alex Winter

Released by Anchor Bay Entertainment


When you take a couple of kids outta film school and give them the opportunity to blow millions of studio dollars on their first big picture, the results are guaranteed to be wildly uneven. Some will take that cash and their talent and make a film like, oh, let’s just say Saw, for lack of a better modern example. Other filmmakers, as Tom Stern and Alex Winter recount in their giggle and expletive-filled directors’ commentary, will conceive a concept so ludicrous that they momentarily abandon it to develop a story about a family of Satanists holing up in an International House of Pancakes, then come to their senses, use millions of 20th Century Fox’s dollars to envision their original idea, wrangle in some of the industry’s best makeup FX artists and an eclectic cast, and create a sweet piece of early-‘90s cult celluloid only a few f’d up individuals out there will remember more than a decade after its completion.

Behold one of the countless reasons Rotten didn’t get much play from the ladies in high school. When you become a Freaked quoting geek, not many people will get what you mean when you randomly say, “Styrofoam cup” or “I just laid a turd that’s the spittin’ image of Kim Bassinger!” which would quickly be followed by – if you had a savvy film fiend by your side – “Boy, if I had a dime for every time I heard that.” Ah, yes, Stern and Winter’s frivolous feature about a former Hollywood child star (Ricky Googan, played by Winter) who sells himself out to endorse a highly toxic chemical only to fall into the clutches of a “freek” maker (Quaid) and become a hideous attraction for South American audiences didn’t exactly strike a chord with the new brass at Fox. (No way.) But screw ‘em. This movie’s a riot in my pants and when it was dumped to home video (in my case, laserdisc) I invited everyone over to join in on the fun. (Yes, I was underage at the time and yes, the party was all legal.) Consistent in its insane, cartoony, vulgar (the “heavy petting zoo” gets me every time) attitude, and the ultimate antithesis to Todd Browning’s own look at the often tragic and sorrowful world of sideshow freaks, this is no horror film per se but it does have occasional moments of bloodshed and anyone who’s worth their salt in makeup FX better recognize the film’s gallery of works by Screaming Mad George, Steve Johnson, Tony Gardner, Thom Rainone and many other latex pushers.

And it’s got Mr. T as the bearded lady. And an ugly little troll. And a silly joke about a hammer that can’t be quoted, it just needs to be seen. And I must move on…

A new partnership between Fox and Anchor Bay has apparently made this Special Edition possible and if you want to start off on the right foot dive head-first into the Zygrot-24 cesspool by listening to Stern and Winter’s commentary track. At the time they made Freaked they were two twenty-somethings with $12 million dollars at their expense; years later, despite the studio’s treatment of their freshman effort (following the duo’s MTV show Idiot Box), they’re still laughing at the sheer strangeness of their big break. They also exchange plenty of embarrassed laughter over the worst jokes in the film, but you’re right there chuckling along with ‘em. The dirt flies as Winter talks about Mr. T bailing out of the production early and Stern quips with the Quaid impersonations. These are two dudes you want over your place sharing some brew and watching flicks.

The hardcore fans will want to toss in Disc 2 where they can find the Reehearsal Version of the film. Winter plays most of it in makeup. And damn if it isn’t funny to see the usually straight-faced Will Sadler cracking up during his scenes with Michu, the world’s smallest man. Hijinx in Freekland (11m 49s) has what are obviously the best moments of Mr. T’s happy days on the set. In a nutshell, this featurette is a montage of home video footage taken during principal photography. A crazy shooting environment for a crazy film, that’s all I’ll say. The “third” and, as he puts it “less interesting writer,” Tim Burns babbles on for a good twenty-one minutes or so elsewhere on the DVD. This feature could’ve used a little pep other than relying on a static camera shot of Burns at his desk as he talks about Freaked‘s origins (it was supposed to be a film vehicle for The Butthole Surfers) and the price he had to pay for playing the Frogman. Regardless, it’s another fact-filled, self-deprecating piece to enjoy. On another note, Burns also hints at his involvement in the abortion that is An American Werewolf in Paris, calling it a “horror story.” No shit. I wish he went further.

It’s the troll! (3m 7s) offers us a little rehearsal footage of young imp Alex Zuckerman playing an unrestrained Stuey Gluck. The making of Elijah Skugs’ freak campground is the focus of Under Construkshen (3m 28s); There are no weirdos here! (5m 31s) is more rehearsal goodness, only here there are some scenes that didn’t make it into the final film (more can be found under Deleted Scenes (7m 13s) section.) And if you’re looking for something makeup-driven, Behold…the Beast Boy (6m 56s) gives you a taste of what Winter’s daily routine in the FX trailer must’ve been like. (Hell, let’s put it that way.) Also included are two short NYU student films. One which I found unwatchable even at thirteen minutes in length, the other is a goofy experimentation in black and white photography.

Concept art, early poster art (with various title incarnations) and storyboards are over at the Freaked Art Gallery, capping off what is probably the most definitive look (transfer and sound are top-notch, by the way) we’re ever gonna get at this buried treasure of a gross-out comedy.


4 out of 5

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Jon Condit