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  Freaked Chemistry Set-Up
Year: 1993
Director: Alex Winter, Tom Stern
Stars: Alex Winter, Michael Stoyanov, Megan Ward, Randy Quaid, William Sadler, Brooke Shields, Keanu Reeves, Derek McGrath, Mr. T, Alex Zuckerman, Bobcat Goldthwait, Jeff Kahn, Jaime Cardriche, Lee Arenberg, Patti Tippo, Tim Burns, Joe Baker
Genre: Horror, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Film star and former child star Ricky Coogan (Alex Winter) appears on the Skye Daley (Brooke Shields) talk show to discuss his recent ordeal in Santa Flan. What had happened was that he had been asked by the multinational corporation E.E.S. (which stands for Everything Except Shoes) to represent their new line of chemical fertiliser and Ricky's initial misgivings were dispelled when they offered him an astronomical amount of money. So off Ricky was sent to Santa Flan to see the chemical plant, accompanied by his best friend Ernie (Michael Stoyanov), but fate intervened when he saw an attractive protester, Julie (Megan Ward) at the airport...

Freaked, also known as Hideous Mutant Freekz, didn't make much of an impact when first released, but found a small yet loyal group of fans who discovered it on home video. Basically a catalogue of relentless silliness mixed with an irreverent imagination, it was written by Winter, director Tom Stern and Tim Burns and features a willing cast who live up to its madcap atmosphere, but if you're looking for clever plotting, forget it. Taking that old cinematic standby, the freak show, rather than painting its characters as unfortunate results of nature the film sends up the whole idea of Hollywood taking pity on the less glamorous by making its freaks as ridiculous as possible.

The obnoxious Ricky has disguised himself in bandages so that Julie, all ready to pelt him with manure, won't recognise him. But she feels sorry for him in this state and when he offers to give her a lift to the chemical plant she agrees. Along the way, Ricky accidentally reveals his true identity after becoming incensed that Julie should think Christian Slater is a better actor than him, and Julie is not impressed. However, she puts her displeasure behind her for a while when she notices the signs along the roadside offering a freak show up ahead.

This is the trio's big mistake when they visit the carnival and are met with Elijah C. Skuggs (Randy Quaid playing it up to the hilt), who fixes it so that within minutes the three are strapped to tables and subjected to his freak creating machine, which just happens to run on the same chemical that Ricky was supposed to be promoting. From then on the special effects and makeup teams have their work cut out as the right-on Julie and the sexist Ernie are fused together (along with the big business pollution message, this is about as political as the film gets) and Ricky is turned into a half-human beast which naturally makes him reassess his attitudes - eventually.

The collection of freaks Ernie, Julie and Ricky are in with are all inspired, ranging from celebrities (of a sort) such as Mr. T as a bearded lady or Bobcat Goldthwait as a man with a sock puppet for a head to a constantly complaining man-worm (Derek McGrath) and a frogman (a man in a scuba diver's outfit - speaking French). Then there's an unrecognisable and uncredited Keanu Reeves as the Dog Boy who rallies the freaks in versions of TV gameshows and plans their escape. Freaked is pretty much consistently funny, with a light anti-corporate theme, and many moments of inspired daftness (the hammer's flashback, the sensitive members of the audience), but you get the impression that it puts amusing itself before the viewer. Still, it is hilarious in places. Music by Kevin Kiner.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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