Sunday, June 26, 2016

Freaked (Tom Stern and Alex Winter, 1993)

Why does Keanu Reeves go uncredited as 'Ortiz the Dog Boy'? The only reason I ask is because I happen to think that this is probably the best performance of his career. If you're wondering why I say that it's "probably" his best performance instead of saying that it's "hands-down" his best performance is because I haven't seen Bram Stoker's Dracula since it came out on home video. I know, his performance as Jonathan Harkness was universally panned. But I have a sneaking suspicion that time has been kind to his performance in that particular motion picture and now is the perfect... What's that? You say time hasn't been kind to Keanu Reeves' performance in Bram Stoker's Dracula. Huh. Well, if that's the case. I can confidently declare Keanu Reeves' turn as Ortiz the Dog Boy in Freaked to be the best Keanu Reeves performance of all-time. Yes, I realize that Keanu Reeves is still alive and could technically still top his performance in Freaked. But let's get real, people. This is Ortiz the Dog Boy we're talking about. In other words, this is as good as it gets, Keanu-wise. Wow, where did that come from? I never in a millions years would have I guessed that I would open a review with such a surplus of Keanu-based jibber-jabbering. I initially wanted to get in a fake argument with myself about Michael Stoyanov's ethnicity. But my inner UN Secretary-General (Ban Ki-Yum-Yum?) has informed me that I should tread lightly when it comes to matters that involve Balkan-centric ethno-cultural identity. So, I put the subject on the back-burner. I still think he's Macedonian... (Bup-bup. Tread lightly.)


Anyway, I can't believe Keanu Reeves got mentioned before pus. Which is weird, because I love pus. And I also love projectile vomit. And loud Styrofoam cups. And leggy stewardesses named, oh, I don't know, Francesca. And worms that dream of wiping they're own asses. And trolls named Stuey. And TEC-9-toting Rastafarian eyeballs. And, of course, references to Jake and the Fat Man.


Oh. My. God. When freak show impresario Elijah C. Skuggs (Randy Quaid, my favourite Quaid, by the way - don't let the "Hollywood Star Whackers" bring you down) mentioned Jake and the Fat Man, I nearly lost it.


After about three straight minutes of J.A.T.F.M.-based losing it, I eventually found it. And when I did, I was shocked to discover that this movie is actually quite awesome. Sure, the film doesn't fully explore the gender identity crisis (a.k.a. gender dysphoria - which is something I'm going through big time at the moment*) that Ernie (Michael Stoyanov) and Julie (Megan Ward) face throughout the bulk of this movie. Nor do they fully explore the gender identity crisis  that Mr. T's Bearded Lady goes through, either.


He's told flat out that he would be better off without a dick. But is he? Is he better off? Honestly, I don't know. At least Elijah C. Skuggs lets her keep the beard... which was nice of him. He might be a weirdo, but he cares about his freaks. Well, sort of.


At any rate, imagine being attached to Megan Ward, like, all the time. Yeah, it sounds great on paper. But what if Megan Ward doesn't like you? And not only that, what if Megan Ward shows her dislike for you by punching you in the face? Even those who are adept at taking multiple punches to the face will grow tired of being repeatedly pummeled by an attractive blonde in a red beret. Oh, and don't bother running away. Wherever you go, Megan Ward goes. You know, because a mad scientist/card carrying weirdo glued you together using a controversial substance called Zygrot-24.


One of the perks of being the best friend of a successful television star is that you get to act like a douchey jackass on airplanes. The downside being, when said TV star decides to pursue/woo an attractive blonde environmentalist in a red beret (one who is down in South America protesting the very product your TV star friend is supposed to be promoting), you're the one who's probably going to feel a slightly coolish sensation on your hip area when the aforementioned mad scientist/card carrying weirdo starts slathering iridescent sludge all over it.


Actually, screw coolish, that iridescent sludge looks like it burns like a three-toed motherfucker.


Coolish, not coolish. The point is, being Ricky Coogan's best friend has its advantages and its disadvantages. Oh, Ricky Coogan. You greedy tool, you.


Played by Alex Winter, who also serves as the film's co-writer and co-director, Ricky Coogan is the star of the television series, Baker's Dozen, and Ghost Dude, a semi-successful movie about a... ghost... dude??? (the film's plot is never revealed).


Hoping to capitalize on his celebrity, the suits (i.e. William Sadler - the rest of the "suits" are skin-covered elderly puppets) over at E.E.S. (Everything Except Shoes) want Ricky to go to South American nation of Santa Flan (named after the patron saint of creamy desserts) to promote a banned fertilizer named–you guessed it–Zygrot-24.


Now, you would think that Ricky would be mucho eager to get down to the business of promoting Zygrot-24 given that he stands to earn five million dollars. But Ricky is too distracted by Megan Ward's Julie to focus on the task at hand. Down in Santa Flan to protest Zygrot-24, Julie is at first repulsed by Ricky, as he represents everything she's against in this world.


In a ironic twist, however, Julie starts to develop feelings for Ricky after he's transformed into a hideous freak.


It should be noted that Ricky's soulmate is actually Stuey Gluck (Alex Zuckerman), a loudmouth miscreant whom he shares a psychic connection with. Of course, the fact that Stuey (a.k.a. The Troll) is an obnoxious little kid will probably mean their relationship will be strictly platonic in nature. But still, I liked how Stuey goes out of his way to help Ricky in his time of need.


You could argue that the real star of Freaked isn't Alex Winter, Megan Ward or Brooke Shields as talk show host, Skye Daley, but special make-up artist, Screaming Mad George. Creating the looks for not one, but at least half a dozen freaks, Mr. Mad George's make-up work is astounding (I particularly liked the way Ricky Coogan's ghastly side glistened in the light of the moon).


And to make sure each freak is properly introduced, the film has a scene where an impromptu game of Hollywood Squares breaks out. Hosted by Keanu Reeves' Ortiz the Dog Boy, the game gives us our first look at many of the film's signature freaks.


Let's see, there was, Worm (Derek McGrath), Cowboy (John Hawkes), The Eternal Flame (Lee Arenberg), Rosie the Pinhead (Patti Tippo) and Bob Vila (Nicholas Cohn). Hold on, I don't think Bob Villa was a freak, he was just there to confuse audience members born after 1995.


In fact, there's a lot in this film that will confuse and bewilder people born after 1995. Yes, I realize that almost every film made before 1995 has the potential to confuse and bewilder today's youth. But not every film made before 1995 has a sly reference to Jake and the Fat Man. Or a Morgan Fairchild cameo, for that matter. Nonetheless, I would rather a film confuse and bewilder its audience than bore and anesthetize, that's for damn sure. And Freaked, the best merger of Freaks and The Great Escape to come out during the early 1990s, is definitely not boring. Not even close, bud!

* "At the moment"?!? Ha! Talk about being dishonest. More like the last twenty-five years. Extreme avoidant personality disorder + dysphoria = Pure hell. I'll be okay... hopefully.


16 comments:

  1. Holy crap! Yet another movie right up my alley <3 I've watched some of the best movies I've seen ever in my life thanks to this blog <3.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Awesome. This pleases me greatly.

      Delete
  2. Summer of '94 this was on HBO ad nauseum & it was AWESOME

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly when I first watched it. HBO showed some cool movies then.

      Delete
  3. So happy this movie and this blog crossed paths in my world. I think about this movie with fair frequency. I remember watching it and Basketcase 2 in the same week while a kid.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cool.

      I love Basket Case 2. Gabe Bartalos is credited as the "special makeup effects artist for that flick; he also did the makeup for Spookies, which I reviewed recently.

      Delete
  4. I wish you luck as you cope with avoidant personality disorder and gender dysphoria issues. It is unfortunate when we do feel completely comfortable in our own skins. We all deserve a chance at happiness, regardless of what how tangled our inner wiring starts out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. I'm thinking about seeing a therapist.

      Delete
  5. Damn. I had no idea therapy was so expensive. I think jumping off a bridge is more within my budget.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. I bought my first pair of high heels shoes the other day. And let's just say, they made me feel a whole lot better. :D

      Delete
  6. I have a love-hate relationship with Alex Winter. I think he can be a genius at times and others...I just don't know.

    Forgot about this little gem though.

    ReplyDelete
  7. The likes of Steve Johnson,Tony Gardner,and Tom Rainone also contributed to the film's make-up effects,for Keanu Reeves has indeed improved as an actor in recent years for just look at his performances in both KNOCK KNOCK(if you dare to watch that silly Eli Roth film) and THE NEON DEMON,which are as great as his performance as Ortiz The Dog Boy.

    ReplyDelete
  8. The Neon Demon looks kind of amazing.

    ReplyDelete
  9. love this one, glad to see we're still around blogging even if nobody reads

    ReplyDelete