WRITERS: Tim Burns & Tom Stern & Alex Winter
DIRECTORS: Tom Stern & Alex Winter
Alex Winter as Ricky Coogan
Michael Stoyanov as Ernie
William Sadler as Dick Brian
Megan Ward as Julie
Mr. T as the Bearded Lady
Brooke Shields as Skye Daley
Alex Zuckerman as Stuey Gluck
John Hawkes as Cowboy
Derek McGrath as The Worm
Keanu Reeves as Ortiz
Randy Quaid as Elijah C. Skuggs
SYNOPSIS: A dickish Hollywood star signs on to promote a possibly hazardous chemical, and runs afoul of a freakshow in South America. While there, he discovers the chemical has properties beyond those he could have ever imagined, as his best asset is turned against him. Along the way, he learns an important lesson about life and friendship.
THE WHOLE FREAKIN' MESS:
Ooogh, I already feel icky. The movie starts off with a nausea inducing credits sequence that can only be described as post modern, psychadelic, pop art that falls somewhere between really cool looking, and rather nauseating. The backgrounds flicker as distorted, stylised models of the actors, and other people. It is not easily described. It does get points for being incredibly unique, though.
It does sum up what the viewer is in for though; pure, uncut crazy.
I do note that there's a number of makeup effects in the credits, which makes sense, what with the nature of the film. We get a lot of freaky critters running around.
After the bad acid trip known as the credits ends, the movie just doesn't let up on the crazy and wants us to know via a news report that the flying gimp has died. Any relation to Balloon Boy?
Then it's time for the Brooke Shields...er, Skye Daley Show, which is pretty much a clone of any other daytime talk show. You know the type if you've ever turned on a tv. Today's guest is former child star Ricky Coogan, who is giving his first interview since being horribly disfigured, and shall at last reveal himself to the world.
Every shot of Ricky on Skye's show is in complete darkness, to hide his eventual transformation, which we'll eventually see in flashback. Actually, the entire bulk of the movie is flashback, save for the Skye Daley Show.
Skye gives us some of Ricky's history as a child star, and how he grew up and retained his popularity through movies, but now the mere mention of his name sends children to scream in terror. Which they illustrate by having children scream off camera the next time she says Ricky's name. It's a wincer of a gag, but funny.
Finally, the real movie begins with the flashback to Ricky meeting with the board of Everything Except Shoes, or EES. He's about to close a deal to promote the use of a controversial fertilizer, Zygrot-24. Ricky is naturally concerned by rumours he has heard of the chemical's lethality, and banning on more than one continent. Any actor would be hesitant to promote such a thing.
The head of EES brings out the top man in their research division down in South America where the chemical has yet to be banned, and he shows no ill effects from working on it. Ricky pokes fun at the name of his village, Santa Flan, and it sends the man into a fit, which somehow causes him to become smaller and smaller as he freaks out and his voice raises like it was on helium. So, no adverse effects, huh?
Before Ricky can point out that something is amiss, CEO Death offers him two million dollars for the job. That doesn't quite silence him, but the five million offer that follows is tempting. The best part is the ready made signs for each offer that one of the EES flunkies flips over with each new negotiation.
Ricky consults with his entourage, which to a man tells him not to do it. He ignores the advice like any good Hollywood star, and accepts the deal with the biggest shit eating grin I've ever seen.
As we watch Rick's plane flying into Santa Flan, Skye asks if there was an in-flight movie. Ricky tells her they showed Return to the Blue Lagoon, which Skye heard was kinda sucky. Bonus points to anyone who gets the joke.
So we get introduced to Ricky's closest friend Ernie, in one of the most sexist ways possible as the entire crew of stewardesses run away from him with a fake hand sticking out of his pants' zipper.
As if that introduction wasn't enough, we then get treated to meeting Ricky's most annoying, most devoted, and most ugly fan; Stuey Gluck. He somehow stowed away aboard the plane, in the overhead bins. This movie was filmed before 2001, yes. The kid has stalked Ricky onto the flight to get an autograph, which by the way everyone knows each other, I would expect him to have plenty of those by now.
Stuey tries to be the voice of reason and talk Ricky out of sponsoring Zygrot-24 (Wouldn't that be like sponsoring one of the chemicals in soda?) but just as it seems he's getting throguh, the kid gets nailed by a drinks cart. As he stumbles to his feet, he accidentally opens an airplane hatch, gets sucked out along with a man in the wheelchair, and sadly lands in a haystack and walks away unharmed.
The signs that this was filmed before 9/11 continue as a flight attendant takes a bomb away from a passanger to be stored overhead, and as Ricky and Ernie watch once they're on the ground, another plane blows up just for cheap laughs and to fake us out that they had died. Oh, if only. And I don't have a problem with exploding planes for cheap laughs, it just makes me cringe a little these days.
Ricky and Ernie are met by the site of a protest against EES, Ricky, and Zygrot, led by the other star of the movie, Megan Ward. Remember her name, folks. I know her filmography, and she's got quite a few movies on my queue to get to. You will be hearing from her again.
Being a male, and a bit of a pig, Ricky concocts an insane scheme to hook up with Julie, by wrapping himself up in bandages so he can not be recognised, but still try and get the girl. Considering she wants to fling cowshit at Ricky, they hit it off pretty well. I'd argue some logic in his plan of covering himself from head to toe to try and boff the girl, but this movie goes where logic fears to tread.
Speaking of hitting, Julie takes quite the liking to Ernie as well, or at least hitting Ernie, as she smacks him around twice in about as many minutes. And that's not the last abuse she'll throw at him.
Ricky's disguise is short lived as they drive along, and the conversation eventually turns to slagging on Ricky. Once Julie mocks his acting, he gets pissed and tears off the bandages around his face. So much for that plan.
As they continue onward, because what else are they going to do? the trio stumbles upon a local freakshow and decide to check it out because it might be a hoot. Do hoots ever turn out well in movies?
Ricky wants to bail on the lameness, but the proprietor of the freakshow, one Elijah C. Skuggs arrives to give them the tour. The freakshow speaks to the activist in Julie though, and she thinks it's some monument to individuality. Yeah, Skuggs can't believe it either, as he breaks the fourth wall and shoots the audience a knowing glance.
We also meet our first freak, Mister Toad. He has a habit of swiping things with his tongue, which pisses Ernie off to the point where he threatens to blow him up like he used to do as a kid. Moments later, Toad spies...spies a rabbit and...aww hell no.
What is it with freaks and killing bunnies?? WHY? I hope Ernie blows you up good, Toad.
The trio are somehow instantly subdued and strapped down between cuts, and Skuggs reveals he makes freaks as well as show them off.
He pulls off the curtain on his freak making machine, and guess what it uses. If you said something that rhymes with Whygot-20bore, you're correct. Ernie continues to show how gentlemanly he is and offers up Julie as the first test subject.
The not so good doctor fiddles around on his computer, while we get treated to extreme closeups of Randy Quaid's face. Thanks so much, movie. The menus in his freak program has a ton of little jokes buried in them, and are worth a look. The entire machine is totally jank, with pieces everywhere, a real animal mouse in place of a computer mouse, and even mispelled keys on the keyboard. How do you get professionally made keyboard keys, with engraved lettering, that's mispelled? Gah.
Skuggs concocts his oozy goo and smears it on Julie and Ernie, after shoving their operating tables together. Rather than the mutagen creating Heroes in a Half Shell, we get a bizarre claymation showcase which looks really out of place next to live action. Made all the worse by the random shit that pops out of it like a dinosaur, and Gumby. This is definitely one of the scenes that appeals to the absurdist crowd that love this movie.
Once the smoke clears, it's revealed that the two of them have been merged into a single person with two heads, and an extra wide body. Ernie's thrilled at having instant access to boobs. Julie, not so much with the thrilled. As Toad carries them off, that can only mean it's Ricky's turn.
Afterwards, Ricky wakes up groggily, hearing Skuggs on the phone with someone only identified as the Laughing Man. Ricky's transformation is only half completed, and Skuggs needs more Zygrot to complete his change into a full bodied freak.
Oh, the reason he's called the Laughing Man? He laughs. A lot. At everything. I suspect Skuggs may be talking to the Joker. Which makes way too much sense with the chemicals, now that I say it.
Finally we get to see the new Ricky, and he is indeed quite hideous. It's pretty disgusting, and a damned fine makeup job, all things told. Its blended very well, and doesn't look any where near as bad as Tom Baker's half horrible face in Freakmaker. Although I do wonder if the half good, half disgusting design is a nod to that movie.
Skuggs takes Rick to his new home, a teeny outhouse that is actually bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. I made enough Doctor Who jokes with the last freak infested film, so I'll give them a pass this time. Skuggs credits Bob Vila with the inspiration, and an impersonator shows up to give him more ideas, but he quickly gets tossed aside. And hit with a hammer. Twice.
And so Ricky, and us, meet the rest of the freaks, starting with their leader, Ortiz the dog boy. Whom I always forget is Keanu Reeves buried under that makeup.
We meet the gang via a tired riff on Hollywood Squares, as Ortiz puts the two/three newbies into a game, and shows off the freaks in each square, replacing the usual celebs. There's the Worm, Nosey a giant nose-faced guy, a literal cow boy, the usual bearded lady but this time played by Mister T, a man with a sock for a head voiced by Bobcat Goldthwaite, a man who is forever farting fire, and the hideous frogman (Who is just some guy in a scuba suit acting crazy. Nice swerve) as well as a few other randoms.
They drag this joke out for far too long, but at least there's more smacking with Ernie and Julie as they argue over who to pick.
Ricky pulls a Lynch, wanting nothing to do with the freaks, and how he's not like them, and goes off to sulk. And spew pus out of his open sores.
A number of freaks come over to console Ricky and let him know he's not alone, while sharing their sob stories. Or try to, anyways. Some of them are particularly lame, like Sockhead's. He can't tell a story to save his life, and it pretty much amounts to him walking in and getting changed.
Missus T's story is just weird. And that's saying something. She was a he who stumbled upon the freakshow, and Skuggs just blatantly asks him if he'd wouldn't be better off without his ah...male genetalia. Which seems fine by T.
The camera then pans to a hammer laying on the ground, and we see its flashback. Seriously. The hammer used to be a wrench, until Skuggs dipped it into his ooze. The entire assemblage is in tears at the harrowing tale of the former wrench.
Every flashback ends with the transformation, not being shown, but cut to outside Skuggs' lab, and punctuated with a crash of thunder and shot of lightning. Including the wrench's. It just builds in absurd hilarity up to that moment, that they give such dramatic import to a wrench becoming a hammer. Probably one of my favourite moments.
Later, in his cubicle, Ricky has a freaky vision of Stuey, and we learn that many freaks possess psychic abilties of some kind. However, ones like Ricky's are rare gifts, and only a bond between soulmates. I'd return that gift, personally.
The movie diverts to Stuey's attempts to get the word out on the missing star after their mental communications. No one believes him until he takes his story to the Weekly World News, who will publish anything. Of course, once he's published, Laughing Men and his considerably less jovial goons grab the kid, and send us back to the actual movie.
Oh hey, it looks like Skuggs does actually run a real freakshow in his spare time, and doesn't just deform people for shits and giggles. People start crowding into the tent, and the freaks are backstage getting ready, which is a familiar scene to any actor. Ricky though, is avoiding his prep and instead waiting for people from EES to come rushing in to his rescue.
The freaks go through their schticks, and while the makeup in this movie is downright amazing, the actual freaks from Freakmaker had better gimmicks and performances. Possibly helped by those guys being real freaks who did this for a living and had worked out their performances over an entire lifetime, so I can't fault Freaked too much. But it is very annoying that every damned sign in this movie, at least any sign made by Skuggs, is horribly mispelled. The joke got old thirty minutes ago.
Also, I don't understand why Nosey, a guy with a gigantic nose, goes on stage in a gorilla costume. And with a monkey mask that in no way could fit over his schnoz, since it's just a regular gorilla mask for any old guy. Most likely they realised the nose makeup was crazilly unweildy and unusable in a performance like setup so improvised, but to me it is just annoyingly odd.
The best performance has to be Sockhead's, and not because of his actual show. In the middle of his thing, he slips and catches himself on the microphone, accidentally pulling the sock off his face...which is actually a hand manipulating the sock! There's something so brilliantly bizarre about him not being a man with a sock for a head, but instead with a third hand, manipulating a sock puppet. I don't know what it is, but I love it. The audience is less amused and thinks his gimmick is all a fake. Poor hand headed guy.
Finally it is time for Ricky's performance, and Worm inspires him with a speech about how Ricky is a true actor, and this should be nothing for him. Instead of playing the part of a Beast Boy, he instead does a Shakespearean speech, which confuses Skuggs as being off script. But the audience eats it up, and that's all that matters to the mad scientist.
At long last, someone from EES shows up, but once he sees Coogan, he decides the guy is just too damned ugly, and he and the audience mock him. Ricky doesn't take it well and tears off the suit's head. The crowd goes wild, and not in the good way, exiting the tent in a panicked stampede.
Later, probably the next day, and with no one really acting like any murder had taken place, Ricky is trying to get out through the outhouse's fire exit which Skuggs has blocked off, local ordinances be damned. Hope is not lost though, as he lures a milkman over to unlock the door and into the outhouse.
Ricky slips out of the outhouse wearing the milkman's uniform, which is a surprisingly good fit on the deformed little troll. Sadly, he forgot to grab the keys to the delivery truck, so he moves on to a nearby car that is also locked. Then he finds a bike, but that's locked up as well. Next he finds a boat which wouldn't get him anywhere anyways, but even if it could, it has been secured by the Club.
All the while, this giant mechanical head of Skuggs at the center of the carnival is spinning around and freaking Ricky out as the eyes seem to keep watching him. After the boat, he sees the eyes have disappeared and... You know what, this needs an image. Activating security feed.
See? This movie is cracked, plain and simple. Or on crack. Possibly both. Oh, and the pupils are their mouths, and move when they speak.
The...the rasta eye guards take Ricky to Skuggs who would love to just kill the troll, but his act is a hit, and it's more worthwhile to keep him around. He reveals his plans to finish mutating Ricky at the next performance into a horrible, evil freak that will then destroy the other freaks, and become the biggest hit of the show.
Um, and the only hit, you loon. Not to mention the difficulty in repeat performances. It's kind of a one off plan, isn't it? But hey, logic left this station a long time ago and ain't coming back.
Since the movie's just about halfway done, we slip back to Skye's show to remind us this is all a flashback being told by Ricky, who is still buried in shadow, despite being revealed as a troll monster.
Anyways, Ricky heads back to the outhouse after swiping an important note from Skuggs, and he runs into the other freaks. All dressed as milkmen. Including the former wrench. Ortiz says that while a dozen milkmen is within the realm of possibility, thirteen milkmen is just plain unbelievable and silly.
Nooo, that's not what makes this silly.
Ricky is about to let them go about their crazy plan and got shot up by the equally crazy existence of talking eyeballs with guns, but then he sees Julie and knows he has to try and save his friends fom the armed Jamaican eyes.
And that is not getting any less absurd the more I write it. I thought I'd get used to it over time.
Ortiz gets in a huff and he fights Ricky for the right to lead the pack. Rick is spared getting cut up when the dogboy spies a squirrel and runs after it, which draws the attention of giant eyeballs carrying weapons.
Ricky assumes his new role as leader, and comes up with a plan. Well, actually everyone but Ricky comes up with the plan, and gives him the credit for his brilliance. They plot to dig a tunnel into Skuggs' lab and create their own freak formula to transform Ricky into a good troll that will destroy their captor and not themselves.
They break into the lab and Mrs. T goes back to tell the other freaks that they succeeded, and we learn that the frog man is actually French. Cute. I have never, ever heard that joke before.
Sockhead finally realises how insane their plan is and freaks out, drawing the attention of armed rasta eyeballs, which shoot him up good. Oh, and one of them is smoking a joint. Because they just weren't fucked up enough yet.
Meanwhile back in the lab shed, they're doing their best to keep quiet, but the sound of a falling paper cup draws Skuggs attention. The walls of Worm's tunnel are collapsing and everyone gets out of there, but Ricky loses the can with their ooze in his haste to escape. But he did get out with macaroons for everyone.
EES shows up the next day with a giant shipment of Zygrot-24, and Rick finally figures out they've been in on this since the beginning, as well as learning that Laughing Man is really the head of the company. Oh, and they also hand over Stuey to Skuggs.
The mad scientist reveals his master plan, that once he has created his superfreak (He's superfreaky!) that will somehow enable him to create his masterpiece, Super Mega Freak World. The model of which is just a larger scale model of the one he has for Freak Land.
While Skuggs and friends laugh evilly over their plans for global domination, or something, Stuey escapes and gets out with the can of ooze that will make Ricky a good freak.
And so the performance comes, and Skuggs is ready to create his monsterpiece. Stuey is in the audience but can't be seen by Ricky through the bright stage lights. He tries to get his idol's attention but only pisses off the audience. This gets the can of ooze poured over his head. Sigh. Why does the annoying troll child have to save the day?
Skuggs calls in his eyes to deal with the troublesome troll, but Stuey is impervious to their bullets. All he does to take care of the eyes is through dirt in their uh...eyes. Faces? Moving on. Either way, I have to wonder why someone didn't do that 45 minutes ago. Or lemon juice. Lemon juice woulda been awesome.
Quaid has a great line as they run off though, and he shouts out, "Damn my eyes!"
Toad tries to interfere on behalf of his boss, and Ernie save the day by fulfilling his threat from early in the movie and gets him to accidentally eat an explosive. Which makes me wonder where it came from. Or why they didn't use that 45 minutes earlier. Or to blow open the cage they're all in. But such logic is not welcome here.
Skuggs sees things are not going well, so finally transforms Ricky into his ultimate killing machine, and promptly sends him to beat the crap out of Stuey. I shouldn't be rooting for the evil troll, should I?
The men from Everything Except Shoes try to claim the freak machine for themselves, but Skuggs pulls out an oozezooka and sprays them down, as the rest of the audience again stampedes out in a panic.
As Rick gets ready to kill his fan, the ooze mutates the suits into a puddle that then merges into a giant, fleshy shoe made up of human bits. Oh, the irony.
And just as Ricky is about to tell Skye how he murdered Stuey, she tells him that he's been talking for almost 90 minutes, and they simply must go to commercial. No real show would have let him talk for that amount of time without a commercial. This movie is totally unrealistic with no basis in reality.
Instead of killing Stuey though, Ricky finally realises how much he cares for his fan, his soulmate, and true love conquers all. I have zero clue what to make of that.
Skuggs attacks his wayward creation, but gets his ass handed to him fairly quick. Ricky's about to squash the madman, but Skuggs tells them about a time released antidote that he slipped into a batch of cookies they already ate. So with their humanity already on the way to returning, Ricky punts the scientist into the stratosphere, and he lands right in the vat of Zygrot-24.
The FBI makes a timely arrival far too late, led there by Stuey's article, and as the happy ending is about to roll, Skuggs pops out of the vat, transformed into a clone of Skye Daley. Fortunately, he's quickly gunned down by the FBI.
At last, Ricky's tale of terror is over, and it is back to the studio for the movie's bookend. Skye is busy yawning at Ricky's fascinating tale, and her audience is asleep.
Finally they call out that Coogan's light has been fixed, and they turn it on, revealing that Ricky is back to normal. Which doesn't jibe with comments that Ricky would be revealing his transformation on air. And the weirdness we saw in the shadows that made him still look like a troll was just a cactus behind him. It's a massive cheat, but why argue about that, of all things?
The freaks get called out on stage, all of them returned to their original forms, except for the Worm, who doesn't like macaroons, so never ate the antidote. And Ortiz, who was too busy chasing a squirrel, but does finally catch it on stage.
Skye is amazed that Skuggs was transformed to look just like her. Or almost was, as Ricky says he had gigantic, ugly feet. The camera pans down and reveals that Skye's feet are horrible mutations, and we know she's been Skuggs all along. Before he can kill everyone, Julie shows up and puts a few more bullets into him. Her. Uh...
Ricky says it's finally over, and oh how I wish that were true. The movie refuses to end, as a still freaked Stuey arrives, and Skuggs returns from the dead. Again. And is quickly returned there with even more bullets from Ernie this time.
Is it over NOW, dad? Huh huh, is it?
Well, the movie would be over, if Rick didn't feel like giving us a moral about tampering with nature. And Ernie shares a moral about men and women being equal and how much he's learned. At least Julie cuts him short by giving him one last punch.
And at long, long, overdue last the credits are finally allowed to roll, with the classic move of a song about the movie, as Brooke Skuggs jumps up one last time before...
Video: For a little known cult film that had zero budget when it was made, and probably more of a budget for the DVD production, the video looks surprisingly good. Crisp images, good colour. It helps being made in the mid 90s surely, but the quality is way better than you usually get with this level of title.
Audio: A nice sound mix, with good surround use, and a strong center. Could have been a little louder, but no complaints. Except when Stuey talks or yells. Nails on chalkboards, people. Nails on a chalkboard.
Special Features: Since this movie literally came in yesterday, and I am rushing through this to get it out in the last few moments of April Fool's Day, I've only had time to watch the movie and write about it. I'll fill this in later, but the two-disc set is pretty packed, with commentary, deleted scenes, featurettes, and even a full length rehearsal of the film. I can say that's some added value, even without watching them.
Best Line: "With a script that bad, he deserves an Oscar for coming off as good as he did!" says Ernie about Ricky, and kinda sums up the movie, doesn't it?
First Kill/Best Kill: Since this isn't truly a horror movie, there's no real body count to speak of. The only deaths are the EES guy Ricky tears the head off of (And then continues to speak for some time), and Sockhead getting gunned down by a pair of ganga smoking Jamaican eyeballs. Take a guess which one I like.
Freak Type: There's no gore to speak of, but the mutations are pretty horrific, and that shoe thing is sure nightmare fuel.
Freak Appeal: It's a PG-13 film, so it's pretty clean.
Movie Rating: Gnngh. This movie is too bizarre, too absurd, and too damned random to be good. It's a plotless comedy that makes jokes at the expense of common sense and good writing, but it's hard to fault a comedy for that since a lot of them do. But this one in particular pushes that boundary way too far. This could have been a really good little comedy with a little more editing, but they pushed things too far. It's clearly a vanity piece, with the writers and directors (Same people) doing what they want, for the most part, with the studio's money. That said, there is something of a story, and something to say somewhere beneath all the eyeballs and absurdist logic, so three out of five cans of Zygrot-24.
Entertainment Rating: Yet...I find myself liking this movie. Not for any quality, but I do appreciate a bit of the absurd from time to time. And come on. GIANT EYEBALLS WITH GUNS. That takes balls to put on screen and be expected to be taken on any level of seriouness. For that alone I love this movie. It's great fun recognising all the familiar faces. Morgan Fairchild of all people shows up. Mister T in a dress! And bonus points to anyone who recognises the Eternal Flame without hitting IMDB. There actually is some good humour here, but some bad stuff as well, so be warned. Watching this with a group on a boring Saturday night is great fun. Four out of five gun-toting, pot smoking, rainbow hat wearing eyeballs.
Have a happy April Fool's day and beyond!