WRITER: Benjamin Carr
DIRECTOR: Fred Olen Ray
Jamie Martz as Bobby
Michael Amos as Tommy
Scott Clark as Grant
Jessica Keenan as Melanie
Phil Fondacaro as Abbot Graves
Jeana Blackman as Jeanie
G. Gordon Baer as Lester
Curran Sympson as Aelita
Fred Pierce as Hans the Bug Boy
Ross Hagen as the Sheriff
Shyra Deland as Digestina
Melvin Rossi as Conjoino
Brinke Stevens as Madame Voloska
SYNOPSIS: A group of students visit a travelling carnival and run afoul of the people running the sideshow. Once a few of them start disappearing, haven't I done this movie before?
THE WHOLE BLODDY MESS:
The movie kicks right off with weirdness as we see a man stumbling out of a tent and right into the opening credits. The guy chasing him looks suspiciously like Eriquee Chanee.
A bunch of people close in on him menacingly, including the bandaged wonder, a dazed looking hillbilly, a ho...creepy redheaded woman, and a midget in a tux. The last takes off his top hat and chides the man for trying to escape.
With the credits done, and the poor bastard dragged off by the carnies, it's time to introduce our cannon fodder brigade for sideshow as a white van pulls up to the fair. It's your typical bunch of kids showing up at the local travelling freakshow for shits and giggles. For the third movie I ask again how many people really do this these days?
But let's see what this movie gives us, and place our bets on who gets taken out when.
Tommy: He's the typical tough guy, and a bit of a bad boy, and a lot of a pain in the ass. He's the punch first and ask questions sorta guy.
Bobby: Tommy's best friend, and nowhere near as cool as him. He's a bit wishy washy, and a bit of a loser, but they're somehow friends.
Grant: Bobby's wheelchair bound brother, and he's got more of a spine than Bobby. He's still in high school, and his brother takes him absolutely everywhere, including on a double date. It seems like he'd be either the first to go, or the movie's hero.
Melanie: The local ice queen of the school, and Tommy's hopefully girlfriend. She wants nothing more than to be looked at and admired by all. Tommy's gone to a lot of trouble to ask her out, and he takes her to a sideshow?
Jeanie: Melanie's Bobby. She's just about as much of a loser, and is doing her duty as Bobby's date on this little event.
While Tommy and Mel play ring toss, Bobby and Jeanie talk about how the other two probably just hang out with these two losers to make them look better. And of course Grant says that hanging out with him is the only way Bobby can look cool. Jeanie laments that the only way she could look cool is with a full body transplant.
Cue full body transplant in 3... 2... 1...
I guess we're going to go with social pecking order as this particular freakshow movie's metaphor.
Over at the ring toss, Tommy and Mel are spending way too much money until Wheels comes over and points out how the cut of the posts have rigged the game so the way most people throw them will never stick. A rigged game at a carnival?? Gasp. Shock.
This pisses off Tommy, and he auditions for the Red Lantern Corps by shoving the carnie around, and getting upset. Rather than start any trouble, he offers Tommy his money back, and then hands over the bear the kids were trying to win. Tommy shoves over the poor guy, and while he shouts about not wanting the bear, he takes it anyways. Um...
Tommy tries to get close to princess Mel, who only wants to be worshipped and not touched, so shoves him away. He almost stumbles right over the midget ringmaster, and Tommy's natural response is to scoop the guy up like he's a little kid. I think Tommy just leapt to the top of the dead pool.
After Tommy finishes assaulting and insulting Graves, the gang piles into the nearby fortune teller's tent. She gives them each their own fortune. Jeanie will get what she always wanted, Mel will get what she always dreamed of, Grant will get what he must have, and Tommy will get what he deserves.
Bobby never gets his fortune, because Red Lantern Tommy acts like a dick and the fortune teller disappears in a special effect. And I note all these fortunes, so I can come back and compare the ironic punishments everyone receives when we get around to them.
They take their complimentary tickets to the freakshow from the fortune teller, and see that Graves is running the show. What is it with small guys running sideshows in these movies? It's almost cliche. I think Burns in Freakmaker was a better barker, though. Graves feels too forced, trying to hard to be spooky and just sounding threatening instead. I wouldn't compare the two if not for the striking similarity, including some shots that seem almost duplicated from Freakmaker.
The gang debates whether or not to bother, and my side of the argument is pretty much hey, you got free passes from the fortune teller! How can you not go? Free, baby! Heck, the cost without tickets is just a buck. That's hard to say no to. What else can you do for a buck these days?
They enter the tent and see displays of freaks past, and the movie does get some points for referencing the Fiji Mermaid. I know my freaks.
And so we get to this movie's parade of freaks, and the improbable stories of their origins. But that's showmanship for you. It starts off with Hans the Bug Boy with his skeleton on the outside. There's the redneck from the start of the movie, or Conjoino. If you can guess what his malformity is, then you are officially a smarter person than Mel.
Actually, Conjoino is the face in the man's belly, and the larger brother is Lester. Conjoino seems to be the brains of the operation, much like Quato from Total Recall. Better sense of humour than those guys, though. Nice makeup job on the face protruding from the belly, that's for sure.
Bobby is already wigging out, and ready to leave after just the first two freaks. Tommy keeps him around as a naked girl in a giant, barrel tub gets wheeled out. This is Digestina, the girl who can digest anything. They demonstrate this with a piece of steak.
Pfff, I can digest that.
Granted, I have to eat it, and not stick it in my tub filled with stomach acid, but still. It's just a steak.
I am just staring at the movie thinking of all the ways that just can't work. Especially when she supposedly digests a toaster, but then pops it back out of the goo, along with some other items. Isn't that, by definition, NOT digesting them?
Moving along! Next they bring back out the attrac...creepy redhead in a dress and gloves that starts to strip for the crowd. They're warned this is not a striptease, despite what they're seeing.
This is Aelita, the inside out girl, and she brings new meaning to taking it all off, which is exactly what the crowd is hooting for her to do. Well, except for Mel and Jeanie. The latter has actually left the show and is outside wishing she could look like the stripper. Probably not a good idea to wish you had the body in a funhouse mirror though, you might end up even fatter.
And that's about when Aelita peels open her face. She tears open the front of her chest like a vest, and gives whole new meaning to full frontal nudity as we see the bones and muscles and fat underneath. I never thought I'd see breasts from this perspective.
Sadly, that is the extent of the sideshow. Pretty weak, really. I love what we got, the makeup is amazing, but just four of them? Could they have spared the freak?
Bobby ran off after the inside out girl, and pretty much all the group scatters after the show to try and find him. Which is never good in these movies.
Jeanie bumps right into the barker when she gets lost in the tent. Ever the showman, Graves offers her two options; she can either go back the lengthy way which she came in, or for fifty cents she can go through the curtain beside him and see the Great Unknown, and exit the tent from there right away. Next he'll probably try and show her the wonderful Egress.
Once she steps through the curtain, she somehow comes across a very technological lab, such as it is for being in a carnival tent. I also don't see a way out. Quick, get a refund!
Graves preys upon Jeanie's desires for perfection, and shows her what the machine could make her look like. He assures her that if she doesn't like it, all she has to do is ask and they'll change her right back. Yeah, this seems perfectly legit to me! I entirely trust a machine in a travelling sideshow that is promised to alter my body! Sign me up!
Uh, preferably not with the perfect female body presets, mind you.
And in a flash of pink light and quick editing, Jeanie is gone from the tube. The perfect woman is invisible? Where did she go?
Meanwhile, the rest of the cannon fodder are still checking out freaks that weren't in the show. They come across the guy from the start of the movie that was trying to escape, but he doesn't really seem all that freakish, just a bit insane and playing with a snake. I see we're playing fast and loose with the definition of freak now, unless he's being billed as a wolfboy/feral child, but that's still stretching things.
The group is concerned about Jeanie's disappearance, and when they try and get back into the tent, Tiny keeps them out with Lester playing bouncer.
They actually care enough to call in the local sheriff, unlike some other freak movies. They tell him what happened as best they can, and show him the koala she had but they found in the trash. They don't really have a lot to go on, so the sheriff can't do much of anything.
With some persistence though, they impress the sheriff with their loyalty, and he tries to get into the tent without a search warrant. That's the best he can do until she's officially a missing person, or Graves does something illegal he can investigate.
Once they're inside, they see the freaks sitting around playing poker. Graves tells the sheriff about how Tommy picked him up earlier and was generally a dick. That doesn't help the kids' case any.
To try and make up for any hard feelings, Graves gives them each backstage passes. Oooh, now they can go back to the freaks' hotel rooms and trash the place! Rock on!
Back at the van, Tommy and Bobby get into an argument about what to do next, and Grumpy tries to shame Bobby into going back, rather than leave his date at the merciless hands of the freaks. Grant points out some things he saw that were wrong in the tent, trying to convince his brother.
In fact, Bobby's the only one who doesn't want to go back. This may explain why he doesn't have a date. Abandoning your date is never cool.
Teddy shoves past Bobby and grabs a flashlight from the van. Bobby asks what he plans to do with that, and just a guess but maybe he's going to use it to cast light into the darkness of a carnival at night?
"I'm gonna use it to see what I'm hitting!" Or that. Sigh. It's a flashlight, people!
So they leave Bobby to guard the van, and the rest of them sneak through a very well lit field that doesn't look like night at all. No one could hide in the overuse of stage lighting here. Once they reach the side of the tent, they leave Grant behind as well. For pretty much the obvious reasons.
Inside the tent, things have gone all TARDIS again, and the couple find a woman with absolutely no visible openings on her head. No mouth, no eyes, no nostrils, etc. Do I even want to bring up the whole breathing and eating issues this raises, or should we just move on?
They assume she's just some mannequin or something, until the woman actually moves. I dunno, she could just be one of those new animatronic robots from Japan.
That's about when Mel notices a tattoo on the woman's arm, the same one that Jeanie had. So they run in fear, and of course they get seperated. Mel ends up getting backed into the magic tube room, and Tommy stumbles into the inside out girl's dressing room.
Teddy tries to pump her for information, and I've got a sneaking suspision that Aelita is only interested in another kind of pumping entirely.
We cut back to Melanie in the tube, and Graves explaining himself, trying to justify what goes on there as a form of justice. He must work for the ironic punishment division of Hell. So Jeanie got her perfect body, and Mel is about to receive her wish to be desired by men but never touched.
Meanwhile, Tommy is distracted by the hot girl, and he seems to have forgotten that her skin can be pulled off like a candy wrapper. In the throes of passion, she grabs his head and shoves it against her belly as Graves interupts.
While I'm busily staring and going WTF?! Aelita seems quite pleased with herself, and finally doing...whatever the hell it is she's doing. Graves says she's always wanted men to see what she was like on the inside. And while I wince from that pun, she pulls Tommy's face out of her belly and it's covered in stringy goo, and looking a little worse for wear. I thought it was the OTHER girl that could digest stuff without eating it?
Fortunately, Grant witnessed...whatever the hell that was, and wheels away to get backup. He goes to fast and topples over, so he blows his emergency whistle to try and get Bobby's attenion. Bobby hears the whistle and literally sits in the van for like ten whole seconds with a blank look on his face like he's trying to make sense of what the noise is. Presumably he knew his brother had a whistle, what with being his brother and all, so the time it takes him to parse what he's hearing is just plain sad.
The wheelchair is busted and Bobby rushes off to get...something. He's gone so long that the sun has actually come up, and the freaks are advancing upon the cripple.
Grant gets the freaks to promise not to hurt him, because they are oh so trustworthy, and Lester sits the boy up as best he can to talk with Graves. The ringmaster offers the boy a choice; he can either stay there and wait for his brother, and go back to a life where he knows what his fate will be, or come back to the tent and find out what the machine has in store for him.
I like the idea that Graves is, to borrow from D&D a bit, chaotic neutral. He's mischievous, but not exactly good, but he's not really evil either. Whatever his machine does is reflective of the people he puts inside them. There's something to that which works nicely for a character. Like he says, he's a little bit of an angel, and a little bit of a devil.
They start to walk away, leaving Grant laying on the ground, until he calls out and asks them to wait. When next we see the chair, Bobby is finally pulling up in the van, and the sun seems to be going back down again. I'll assume that's just an error of filming and editing and that he didn't take all day to drive back, but still it begs the question of just how far away they parked from the carnival that he took long enough for the sun to just come up, and so far away that he couldn't see the freaks having a chat and taking his brother.
Anyways, Bobby sees his brother's backstage pass and hurries back to the carnival. Which means it probably takes him another hour to get there, and he stopped to get breakfast on the way. Once inside, everyone is packing up to go.
Bobby invokes his own backstage pass, determined to look around and find his brother. Oh, and his date too, probably. Graves tries to talk him out of it, maybe because he can sense that Bobby's not that bad a guy, but he's persistent and hands over his ticket. Once it's been punched, they send him deeper into the tent for his look.
The first freak he finds is the faceless female, and he too notices the tattoo. The movie then cuts to Graves in an extreme closeup that distorts his face with the fisheye lens. I really didn't need to see up the guy's nose. He explains what happened to Jeanie and tries to make the guy turn back, but Bobby continues onward.
Next he goes to see Morganna the Love Doll, and finds a miniaturised Melanie under a glass dome. She's been given her wish to be desired but never touched.
And again we get the extreme dwarfcam, and trying to get Bobby to turn back, but still onward he presses.
So after that, he comes up to Squeakie, the human canary. It took me forever to figure out that's what the name was, since the font was weird. I thought it was Soueakie for the longest time. Why couldn't they have just named him Dave? Anyways, yes, this is Tommy, and he has somehow been turned into a birdman but without the cool lawyer abilities.
Somehow, this is what Tommy deserves. Ok, he was a dick, but that? I dunno if he necessarily deserves that. In Graves weird little paradigm, he feels that everyone deserves to be on the outside what they are on the inside. So what was Tommy? I'm guessing chicken?
The next stop on this magical mystery tour must then be Grant. We see a cloaked figure sitting in his wheelchair. How did they get it there? Or was it a spare they had lying around? When the figure turns around and the hood goes back, we see Grant has become a beautiful, redheaded girl. Wow, I didn't know that's what Grant was on the inside! I definitely appro..what? That's just Aelita screwing around? Awwwh.
Before Bobby moves on to the real final exhibit, Graves shows off the banner he's been working on to promote their latest addition. And I must say, he must be one freaking fast painter to crank that sucker out so quick. Or Bobby is even slower at rescues than I joked. Anyways, the banner shows a hairy, wolflike person on it. Bobby's not too happy to see it, and probably wishes Grant HAD become a hot girl at this point.
Inside a cage, we see a hunched over figure wearing Grant's school jacket, and when he turns around, he's this leathery skinned thing, with a long mohawk, furry hands, and a bull ring in his nose. He's like the bastard love child of Mister T and Frodo.
Seems Grant is ok with all this, since he's accepted by the freaks (Hello, freak movie running theme) and he can walk. That latter point is probably the more important one. I assume it's the same actor underneath that makeup, and I rather like his performance in this movie. He's gone from the weakling in the wheelchair, to this almost gleeful, strong, wild with abandon creature, growling his lines...It's well done. He chews his scenery, almost literally, but this is the perfect time and role to do so, and the actor has a blast. Showcasing the two different sides of Grant is very good.
But wait, there's still one curtain left, and Bobby knows it's his turn, but he never got his fortune, and he doesn't know what he deserves. We hear Graves literally off camera, and unmiked so he can barely be heard, to go forward and see what awaits him.
So Bobby steps through and finds the fortune teller. He asks for his fortune, and she makes sure he really wants to know, even after everything he's seen, and how afraid he should be. She is not wrong.
Bobby says he's not afraid, and she tells him what Bobby deserves is to be alone. She waves an arm, and he literally just fades out of the scene. Yeahbuhwhat?!
To top that, he even fades into where he was going, somewhere outside. How does THAT work? Is it too late to ask? Sure, the movie's been weird, but they really pulled that trick right out of their collective asses. There's no explanation at all for how that worked.
Bobby sits up from the dirt and grass, and sees his punched backstage pass beside him. He climbs up to his feet, the carnival long gone, and he's surrounded by nothing more than tumbleweeds, his friends and brother gone forever.
So, before getting into the details, let's take a look back at the fortunes.
Jeanie will get what she always wanted - a perfect body. Ok, that tracks. She should've included a perfect face in the deal, though.
Mel will get what she always dreamed of - to be desired and never touched. Ok, sure. She's forever young and beautiful, perfect, and kept away from the world behind a glass dome.
Grant will get what he must have, and he gets a working set of legs, and acceptance in a group. That's a bit of a stretch with the weird wording, but I guess it works.
Finally, Tommy gets what he deserves. That one is tricky. The whole point is that *everyone* gets what they deserve, so it feels like a cop out to just say that for Tommy. Although, he is most deserving of horribleness, especially for being an ass in general, and in particular to the man running the machine. So yeah, he deserves to be treated like crap, but how does that translate to bird man? I guess it's ok, but it feels like they were reaching and didn't have many good ideas for fortunes.
Anyways, it's about time to wrap up with...
Video: Since this movie came out in 2000, the video quality is pretty good, and the transfer is solid. No major complaints leap out. I've seen better, but for a low budget horror flick, we're good to go.
Audio: Not bad audio. I think it's only stereo, and there's a decent enough mix. A better surround field would have been nice, though.
Special Features: Videozone! Always good.
Best Line: "There's something wrong with that sideshow!" "That's why they call 'em freaks. I'm just the zookeeper." The sheriff, just struck me funny when he said that, saying what should be obvious to Tommy, and his exasperation at what his job entails these days. Tommy's line about the flashlight was great too.
First/Best Kill: In a Triskaidekafiles first, not a single person dies in this movie. Everyone makes it out alive, although most will wish they were dead. Best transformation has to be Tommy though, since it was so thorough, and looked so awful and painful.
Blood Type: No blood is spilled, and the gore is light, although there is the inside of Aelita which is pretty squick worthy, as well as Tommy's bird form.
Sex Appeal: We got a naked girl in a tub, and a stripper who goes a little too far. So you've got a little something for the horny guys. And I love how it's taken right away when Aelita rips open her chest.
Movie Rating: Like a lot of Full Moon pictures, this movie is surprisingly good despite it's cheese. It has a story, it knows how to tell it, and the plot holes aren't overwhelming. They do cheese right. But it IS cheesy. Three out of five digested toasters.
Entertainment Rating: We got bad jokes, great effects, and a short movie with a few good scares and creepiness. This is a fun watch. I went in not expecting much, and was pleasently surprised. Four out of five koala bears.
And now, like the carnival and Bobby's friends, I disappear for another day!