Freaked is a 1993 American comedy film, directed by Tom Stern and Alex Winter, and written by Stern, Winter and Tim Burns. All three were involved in the short-lived MTV sketch comedy show "The Idiot Box", and Freaked retains the same brand of surrealistic and absurdist humor as seen in the show.
Originally conceived as a low-budget horror film featuring the band Butthole Surfers, Freaked went through a number of rewrites, eventually developing into a black comedy set within a sideshow, which was picked up by 20th Century Fox for a feature film. After several poor test screenings and a change in studio executives who then found the film too "weird", the movie was pulled from a wide distribution and only played on a handful of screens in the United States.
The film starts with a breaking news report announcing that the flying gimp has been destroyed.
The news break ends to reveal "The Skye Daley Show", already in progress. Skye (Brooke Shields) is interviewing beloved former child star Ricky Coogin (Alex Winter). Rather bluntly, Skye asks how Ricky so quickly went from one of America's sweethearts to a name that makes children scream in terror.
It all began when he accepted a job from the slimy mega-corporation E.E.S. (the 'Everything Except Shoes Corporation') to promote "Zygrot 24", a controversial and lethal toxic fertilizer, in South America. Although hesitant at first, the greedy, self-centered Coogin caves in after their sleazy chairman (William Sadler) offers him $5,000,000 and he hops on the first plane to South America with his buddy Ernie (Michael Stoyanov). During their flight, the duo have a run-in with Ricky's number one fan Stuey Gluck (Alex Zuckerman). Showing no compassion at all, Ricky quickly brushes Stuey off, causing a series of events that ends up with Stuey falling out of the airplane and plummeting to the ground below.
Once Ricky and Ernie arrive in the country of Santa Flan, they cross paths with a group of protesters, specifically the hard-willed and attractive young environmentalist Julie (Megan Ward). The two con Julie into thinking they're also environmentalists and she agrees to join them on a trip to an anti-Zygrot 24 protest. However, she soon finds out their true identities and the three are stuck with each other for the rest of the drive. They decide to take a detour to see Freek Land, a freak show, and they wind up in the clutches of demented proprietor Elijah C. Skuggs (Randy Quaid) and his henchman, the long-tongued Toad (Jaime Cardriche). Skuggs introduces them to his "Tasty Freekz Machine", a contraption powered by Zygrot 24 that morphs regular people into "Hideous Mutant Freekz" to become part of his show. Julie and Ernie are merged into a pair of conjoined twins and Ricky is transformed into a hideous half-man, half-monster.
Now incorporated in Elijah's freak show, Ricky meets the other freaks: Ortiz the Dog Boy (Keanu Reeves), the self-proclaimed "Leader of the Freaks"; Worm (Derek McGrath), the half-man, half-worm; Nosey (Jeff Kahn), whose entire head is one big nose; Cowboy (John Hawkes), the half-man, half-cow; the Bearded Lady (Mr. T); Sockhead (Bobcat Goldthwait), who has a sock puppet for a head; The Eternal Flame (Lee Arenberg), who has constant flaming flatulence; Rosie the Pinhead; The Hideous Frogman (Tim Burns), a Frenchman in a scuba suit; and the skeleton of Paul Lynde. At first, Ricky wants nothing to do with any of the other freaks, but soon warms up to them after hearing their stories of how they came to be here. Meanwhile, he discovers that he's developed a telepathic bond with Stuey and summons him to get help. Stuey manages to sell Ricky's story to the Weekly World News, but ends up being captured by a group of shady businessmen that presumably work for Elijah.
The night of the big show comes, and each of the freaks perform a routine for a sold-out house, including Julie and Ernie's comedy and dance routine and Sockhead's heartfelt rendition of "The Wienerschnitzel Polka". Ricky, encouraged by Worm, decides to turn his deformity into the acting chance of a lifetime: he performs the opening soliloquy from Richard III (which comes with subtitles for the "culturally illiterate" that condenses the famous speech into the more succinct "I'm ugly. I never get laid.") which moves the audience to tears and earns him a standing ovation. An E.E.S. executive arrives and, disgusted by Ricky's new appearance, tells him he's fired, causing the entire audience to start laughing at him. Overcome by rage, Ricky rips off the executive's head and the crowd runs away in terror, much to Elijah's amusement, ("now that's entertainment").
The next day, Ricky attempts to escape but is caught by a pair of talking, machine-gun toting Rastafarian eyeballs who take him to Elijah's lair. Elijah informs Ricky that at the next show, he plans to mutate him into a full beast that'll slaughter all of the other freaks, a surefire moneymaking event. On his way back, Ricky runs into the other freaks in the middle of their own escape attempt. He tries to warn them about the eyeballs, but none of them take him seriously. He gets into a blade fight with Ortiz, who ends up running off to chase a squirrel, catching the attention of the trigger-happy eyeballs who chase him out of the park. The freaks decide to elect Ricky as their new leader and Julie admires him for his selfless act.
After Ricky tells the other freaks of Elijah's plans, the group devise a scheme to get back at him by altering the supply of Zygrot 24 to transform Ricky into a peaceful superfreak instead of a murderous one. Ricky, Ernie, Julie and Worm tunnel into Elijah's lab and successfully concoct an altered batch of the chemical. Meanwhile, back at the quarters, Sockhead gets nervous and tries to make a break for it, only to be fatally gunned down by the eyeballs. Upon escaping from the lab, Ricky loses the Zygrot, but instead finds a tasty batch of macaroons, which sparks a celebration amongst the hungry freaks.
Ricky eventually finds out that Elijah's Zygrot suppliers are none other than E.E.S., who arrive at Freek Land with a shipment of Zygrot and an imprisoned Stuey Gluck. As they discuss their plans to mutate the world's population into an efficient workforce, Stuey follows a telepathic tip from Rick and manages to escape, grabbing the tainted batch of Zygrot along the way. Later that night, at the show, before he manages to deliver the Zygrot to Ricky, Stuey accidentally gets the chemical poured on him, transforming him into a seven-foot monster. Elijah sends the eyeballs after him, but they're quickly dispatched after the Stuey Monster throws dirt at them. Toad tries to take him out with his tongue, but accidentally swallows a firecracker thrown by Ernie and thus explodes, splashing goo all over the audience.
Elijah goes ahead and infects Ricky with his own Zygrot, turning him into an equally grotesque seven-foot monster. As the Ricky Monster and Stuey Monster battle to the death onstage, Elijah catches the E.E.S. executives double-crossing him and stealing his "Tasty Freaks Machine". Elijah soaks them all with the Zygrot, mutating them all into a giant, fleshy shoe. Right before the Ricky Monster is about to destroy the Stuey Monster, however, a wave of compassion comes over him, and he drops his weapon and gives Stuey a hug. Enraged, Elijah unsuccessfully tries to fight the Ricky Monster, who bashes him in the head, paralyzing him. Pleading for his life, Elijah says that only he can get the freaks back to normal: he baked a time-release antidote into a batch of macaroons. The Ricky Monster knocks him into an open vat of Zygrot 24, telling him that he "skimped on the coconut", just as the FBI arrive to save the day. Elijah dramatically rises from the vat, transformed into a hideous beast that looks exactly like Skye Daley. The FBI agents gun him down.
Back on "The Skye Daley Show", the entire audience has fallen asleep and it's revealed that Ricky Coogin's grotesque silhouette was nothing more than the shape of a cactus in the background. One by one, the freaks are brought out onto the stage, each one transformed back to normal, with the exception of Worm, who bitterly states that he's never liked macaroons. They are then joined by the still-mutated Ortiz and the Stuey Monster before it's revealed that Skye Daley is actually Elijah C. Skuggs. Skuggs lunges after Ricky with a machete, only to be gunned down by the now normal Julie. As she embraces Ricky, Skye rises again, this time to be gunned down by Ernie. After Ricky and Ernie discuss what they've learned from their whole experience, they wave goodbye to the studio audience. Before the credits roll, though, the machete-wielding Skye lunges at them one more time...
- Alex Winter as Ricky Coogin
- Michael Stoyanov as Ernie
- Megan Ward as Julie
- Randy Quaid as Elijah C. Skuggs
- Mr. T as The Bearded Lady
- Bobcat Goldthwait as Sockhead
- Derek McGrath as Worm
- Jeff Kahn as Nosey
- John Hawkes as Cowboy
- Lee Arenberg as The Human Flame
- Patti Tippo as Rosie the Pinhead
- Tim Burns as Frogman
- Jaime Cardriche as Toad
- William Sadler as Dick Brian
- Alex Zuckerman as Stuey Gluck
- Brooke Shields as Skye Daley
Hideous Mutant Freekz was conceived around the time Winter and Stern had directed 1988's Bar-B-Que Movie, a short film starring and featuring the music of experimental rock band Butthole Surfers. Winter, Stern and Surfers frontman Gibby Haynes began work on the first draft of the script, envisioning it as an obscene, ultra-violent horror film once again featuring the Butthole Surfers, costing around $100,000. The idea was, as Alex Winter put it, "Beach Blanket Bingo meets The Evil Dead". The two fished the script around to various studios for years, but to no avail.
Following the end of production on Stern and Winter's MTV sketch comedy show The Idiot Box, staff writer Tim Burns was recruited to join the two in a number of rewrites. The film was completely revisioned, dropping the aspect of the Butthole Surfers entirely and turning it into a full comedy in the vein of the Monty Python and MAD Magazine-inspired humour that was present in The Idiot Box.
Winter and Stern pitched the idea to 20th Century Fox. Joe Roth, the head of the studio at that time, loved the idea and offered the two a twelve million dollar deal to direct it, despite the fact that neither of them had any experience directing a major Hollywood film and had never even shot on 35mm film before. The only condition was that the film had to be rewritten and toned down to fit a PG-13 rating; therefore, most of the profanity was written out of the final draft to fit MPAA standards. Within a month of being picked up, the film began production.
The studio had such high expectations for the film that they released a number of products based on it, including a line of action figures, a novelization and, most notably, a comic book released by Hamilton Comics (however, since the comic was drawn before most of the casting was completed, none of its characters look anything like their real-life counterparts).
During filming, Joe Roth was fired as studio head by Rupert Murdoch and replaced with Peter Chernin, who didn't like the film nor the fact that twelve million dollars was being invested in it. Chernin cut the film's post-production budget, thus forcing a lot of the soundtrack (including a demo song that Iggy Pop had recorded for the closing credits) and special effects to be greatly cut down or eliminated altogether. The film's title was changed, as well, from the poorly received "Hideous Mutant Freekz" to the supposedly more accessible "Freaked", a title neither Winter nor Stern much cared for.
After several poor test screenings, Fox chose to pull the film from a nation-wide release and cut its advertising budget, leaving no money for commercials or newspaper ads. Freaked had its official premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 11, 1993. Despite initial positive critical response, the film opened October 3, 1993 in the United States on only two screens, making a mere $6,957 in its first weekend. It quickly dropped out of theatres, making less than $30,000, and was released on VHS on April 20, 1994.
Freaked received a mostly mixed response from critics. Entertainment Weekly described the film as "having more laughs than a month of Saturday Night Live", The New York Times hailed it as one of the top comedies of the nineties, and John Kricfalusi, the creator of The Ren & Stimpy Show, called it "the funniest movie in years". Alternatively, Variety criticized the film, claiming "the filmmakers simply try too hard to displease", while Time Out New York stated "the sum is worse than it's [sic] (very ugly) parts". The movie currently holds a 47% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 15 reviews.
Freaked eventually went on to win two awards: the Grand Prize at the 1995 GÃ©rardmer Film Festival and Best Actor (for "The Creatures of the Film") at the 1994 Fantafestival. The film was also nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Make-up.
On July 12, 2005, Anchor Bay Entertainment and 20th Century Fox released a special-edition two-disc DVD, featuring extra material, including deleted scenes, audio commentary, behind-the-scenes footage and two short films from Alex Winter and Tom Stern, the 15-minute film noir parody Squeal Of Death and a black-and-white skit titled NYU Sight & Sound Project. This DVD has since gone out of print.
On August 6, 2013, Anchor Bay and Starz Inc. re-released the movie on DVD and Blu-ray. This new release does not include any of the bonus features from the earlier, now out of print DVD.
A soundtrack release for Freaked was planned, but following the loss of their post-production budget, the idea never came to fruition. The score was composed by Kevin Kiner, with additional music by Paul Leary and Butthole Surfers, and Blind Idiot God. The songs featured in the film were as follows:
- "Freaked" - Henry Rollins and Blind Idiot God
- "Gumby Jack Flash" - Paul Leary
- "Rip/Stop" - Blind Idiot God
- "Butter Queen" - Butthole Surfers
- "Hideous Mutant Freekz" - Parliament Funkadelic and Bill Laswell
- "Sweat Loaf" - Butthole Surfers
- "Freekz! (That's What They Call Us!)" - Mark Evans, Mark Free, & Greg Welchel
- "Midget Man Skank" - Blind Idiot God
- "Cha Bump" - Bald Bill Hagan and His Trocaderons
- "Gluehead Stomp" - Blind Idiot God
- Official Freaked Facebook Page
- Freaked at the Internet Movie Database
- Freaked at AllMovie
- Freaked at Rotten Tomatoes
- Freaked at Box Office Mojo
- Interview with David Daniels, creator of film's opening credits sequence