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Film / Freaked

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"...In Freaked, there's a scene where they throw a mutant kid out of an airplane and he falls thousands of feet to smack into the ground. And every time I'm about to trick myself into thinking I have a sophisticated sense of humor, I catch myself rewinding that scene five hundred times."

Freaked is a 1993 cult comedy movie co-written by, co-directed by, and starring Alex Winter.

The film centers around Ricky Coogan (Winter), an arrogant blockbuster actor and spokesperson for a company that produces toxic chemicals, who travels to South America to get a first-hand look at the chemical's effects. He finds himself at a mutant freak farm run by Mad Scientist Elijah C. Skuggs (Randy Quaid), who eagerly turns Ricky into another subject for his freak machine.

It was originally pitched as a low-budget vehicle for the Butthole Surfers, but went through a number of rewrites, eventually developing into a Black Comedy set within a sideshow.

Also starring William Sadler, Brooke Shields, Mr. T as the bearded lady and an uncredited Keanu Reeves as Ortiz the dogboy.

This film provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: Brooke Shields (as Skye) says that she heard that Return to the Blue Lagoon was terrible. This is a reference to the fact that Shields starred in the original film The Blue Lagoon and was recast for the sequel.
  • Alien Geometries: The freaks are all kept inside an outhouse, much bigger from the inside.
    Ricky: Great use of the space.
    Skuggs: Yeah, yeah. I learned it all from Bob Villa.
  • Animated Credits Opening: The opening credits are done in creepy Claymation.
  • Anti-Climax Cut: Pretty much the signature of Socko, who tells the story of his mutation by going straight from meeting Skuggs to having a sock for a head. He even manages to pull this off later about his own death.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: Zygrot-24 is the substance being used to create the freaks.
  • Bandage Mummy: Ricky disguises himself as an injured man wrapped in bandages to try and seduce Julie when it's apparent she vehemently opposes his sponsorship of Zygrot-24.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • After all the outlandish creatures like Ortiz, the Cowboy, and the Worm, a name like "The Hideous Frogman" would lead you to suspect some kind of bizarre human-frog hybrid, and the character is first shot entirely in shadow to sell this impression. Turns out that he's actually just a French guy in a diving suit.
    • Socko is this as well. He is portrayed by both Skuggs and himself as part man, part sock, but he is revealed to have a hand underneath, making him just a sock puppet (though it is a third hand, so it should still count). The reveal of this causes a riot in the audience.
    • In the Framing Device, Ricky is shown in silhouette talking about how his appearance causes people to gasp in horror at the mention of his name. His outline is obviously very deformed. During his story, he becomes deformed in a way that mirrors his outline in the opening scene. In the end, we cut back to the framing device, and Ricky's spotlight turns on, revealing that he's back to normal. His seemingly deformed outline was just a cactus behind him that coincidentally mirrored his previous deformity exactly.
  • Berserk Button: Do NOT imply that Christian Slater is a better actor than Ricky Coogan.
  • Bestialityis Depraved: During a short scene with a petting zoo, the zooms to the left revealing to be a heavy petting zoo. It features a man kissing a goat in the lips.
  • Big Bad: Dick Brian is secretly funding the entire freak operation.
  • Big "SHUT UP!": Humorously inverted, when Skuggs walks out onto stage to find the entire audience engaged in a massive drink-throwing brawl. He calmly says "quiet, please," in a normal speaking voice that couldn't possibly be heard over the din, and the entire audience instantly stops fighting to politely take their seats and quietly watch the show.
  • Body Horror: 80% of the cast consists of a person with grotesque or horrifying anatomy.
  • Black Comedy: Plenty. One particular example is Paul Lynde's rotting skeleton appearing in the center square of The Hollywood Squares.
  • Blood from the Mouth: Socko coughs up blood after he gets shot by the evil Rastafareyes, even though he has a sock puppet covering a human hand instead of a head.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: The formula Skuggs gives to Ricky is meant to turn him into a hulking rage beast. However, because Skuggs ran out halfway through, Ricky is able to keep his wits about him... until the climax, when Skuggs finishes the procedure.
  • Brick Joke:
    • Early in the film, Ortiz chases after a squirrel, and in doing so, is pursued by the Rastafarian eyeballs. He appears at the very end, having survived, and finally catches the squirrel!
    • Ricky fails to complete an important operation, but it's okay, because he nabbed some tasty macaroons! Everyone's happy, save the Worm, who doesn't like them. Turns out those macaroons contained the antidote for the transformation. Everyone turns back to normal...except the Worm, Ortiz, and Stuey, who didn't eat any.
  • The Cameo:
    • Larry "Bud" Melman inexplicably appears for a couple of random scenes at the freak show.
    • Butthole Surfers vocalist Gibby Haynes is the audience member with the third eye tattoo who points out Socko has a hand under his sock.
    • Sam Raimi plays one of the cops on the cheesy TV show that Skuggs watches. Raimi gave directors Winter and Stern their first break in the biz.
    • Morgan Fairchild has a bit role as an airline stewardess.
    • Brooke Shields has a small role as Skye Daly in the Framing Device.
    • Keanu Reeves appears uncredited as Ortiz the dog boy.
  • Camp Gay: When Elijah tells the audience that "sensitive" members of the audience should leave, two very obviously gay men with mustaches wearing yacht attire delicately make their way out of the tent while managing to lisp without saying anything.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The macaroons. They contain the cure for Zygrot-induced mutations.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: Hamilton Comics published a 32-page one-shot based on this film.
  • Companion Cube: One of the freaks is a hammer. It used to be a wrench.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: The CEO of the EES Corporation is clearly shown to be a bad person who doesn't care at all about making money by ruining people's lives.
    The CEO of EES: *in pitch-perfect "upper management" style* "Bill, if I may add one thing: All those who dare oppose us will stand knee-deep in the blood of their children." *grins*
  • Crazy-Prepared: Skuggs has a little something just in case of "doublecrossing corporate greaseballs" but it probably doesn't count, since he is working with a company of double-crossing corporate greaseballs.
  • Creator Cameo:
    • Production designer Catherine Hardwicke appears as a freak show patron.
    • Co-director Tom Stern plays the milkman.
  • Deranged Animation: The opening credits sequence.
  • Does Not Like Spam: The Worm dislikes macaroons. He's understandably quite upset when it's revealed that the macaroons Ricky found contained the mutation antidote and that he missed his chance of being returned to normal simply because of his distaste for macaroons.
  • The Dragon: Toad is Skuggs' main minion.
  • Epic Fail: Stuey falls from the plane on the ground right near the conveniently located haystack.
  • Evil Laugh:
    • Parodied. Turns out Elijah C. Skuggs just can't get enough of The Family Circus.
    • There's also "codename: Laughing Man", secretly the CEO of EES, whose dialogue over the phone is nothing but this.
      Skuggs: I'm sorry, can you spell that for me?
      Laughing Man: Ha. Hoo. Hee. Heh. Hah.
      Skuggs: Okay, I got it.
  • Evilutionary Biologist: The EES Corporation proposes a deal with Skuggs to use his Zygrot-24-powered freak creator to mutate the working class into brainless drones. "It's a whole new master race! And we own the copyright!"
  • Fake Shemp: Mr. T walked off the set a few days before shooting wrapped, so they had to use a stand-in for the Bearded Lady in several scenes, and Lee Arenberg (The Human Flame) had to dub some of his lines.
  • Flock of Wolves: Stealing a milkman's uniform to use as a disguise isn't quite as effective when all your friends do the exact same thing, as Ricky finds out.
  • Former Child Star: Ricky started out as a child star.
  • The Freakshow: The setting for the film is a freakshow created by using Zygrot to mutate people.
  • Funetik Aksent: Everything Skuggs writes is spelled like it sounds. He calls his freak show "Freek Land," featuring the "Humin Werm" and "Dawg Boy." Even the "enter" button on his keyboard is labeled "ENTUR."
  • Gender Bender:
    • The Bearded Lady, played by Mr. T, is established as being a man who turned into a woman.
    • And Skuggs, who turns into Skye Daley.
  • Granola Girl: Julie cares about the environment.
  • A Handful for an Eye: Stuey takes out the RastafarEyes by tossing a handful of dirt at them, which works pretty well for a creature that's 90% naked eyeball.
  • Hard-Work Montage: The comical part that shows the freaks working hard and doing all kinds of insignificant things, that is making preparations for the planned escape.
  • Homage: The slapstick fights between Julie and Ernie are taken right from The Three Stooges.
  • The Hyena: The Laughing Man, true to his name, is laughing constantly.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Skuggs, the guy using dangerous fertilizer to make mutagenic compounds, makes sure to always pick up styrofoam cups from the ground. They're bad for the environment, you see.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: The climactic showdown between Ricky (dosed with the rage monster mutagen Skuggs came up with) and Stuey (dosed with the "good guy" monster mutagen the freaks came up with) involves Stuey trying to get Ricky to back down without fighting to the death.
  • Iron Butt Monkey: Nothing can break Stuey Gluck, and an awful lot of things try to. Literally.
  • It's All About Me: Ricky is very self-centered.
  • I'm a Doctor, Not a Placeholder: Before mutating Julie and Ernie into a two head freak, he asks Skuggs if he can have a big Rodney. But Skuggs says this:
    Skuggs: "I'm a mad scientist pal, not a miracle worker."
  • Insurmountable Waist-Height Fence: Defied. Skuggs tries to open a simple door and repeatedly fails at that, but he does not give up and after quite a while eventually manages to turn the knob.
  • JerkAss: Ricky is a very mean person, not caring at all about the negative consequences of making a deal with EES and trying to seduce Julie by pretending to be an injured person who sides with her opposition to EES.
  • Jungles Sound Like Kookaburras: Spoofed when the obligatory Kookaburra call is followed by Woody Woodpecker's signature laugh.
  • Karmic Transformation: Skuggs mutates the EES executives into a giant shoe. A giant, moaning flesh shoe.
  • Lampshade Hanging: For most of the film, the framing story (Ricky telling his story on Skye Daley's show) is ignored... until right before the climax, where Skye points out he's talked continuously for an hour and a half, and her producers just told her they need to run a commercial break.
  • Large Ham: Pretty much everyone is yelling and playing as large as possible in this World of Ham.
  • The Last Straw: When the freaks concoct their plan to use the Zygrot to make their own super-freak to defeat Skuggs once and for all, they constantly struggle with the amount of noise they make, but Skuggs seems to not notice any of it. Until someone accidentally knocks over an empty styrofoam cup.
  • Left the Background Music On: During the A-Team Montage, Skuggs complains about the loud music, resulting in Nosey having to turn the radio off.
  • Made of Plasticine: In one scene, an enraged Rick pulls off a man's head like it's a wine cork, even with the appropriate accompanying sound.
  • May Contain Evil: Zygrot-24.
  • Mega-Corp: The Everything Except Shoes Corporation (EES).
  • Milkman Conspiracy: Twelve milkmen get together on the same route, pretending to just be doing their usual business. Soon another milkman joins the party. They all know each other and they've got a shady plan no one should know about.
  • The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: Having their bodies fused causes Ernie and Julie to take on mannerisms of the other, with Ernie at one point going through menstrual mood swings.
  • Mirror Reveal: Arrogant, vain movie star Ricky Coogan is captured by Mad Scientist Elijah C. Skuggs and mutated by the chemical Zygrot-24; the next morning Elijah jovially greets Ricky with a hand mirror to show "The Beast Boy" his new face. Cue screaming and projectile vomit.
    Ricky: Oh God! That was my good side!
    Elijah: Still is, if you ask me.
  • Morality Pet: Stuey tries to be this for Ricky, but he's just too much of a Jerkass. Until he finally lets the little troll into his heart.
  • Mugged for Disguise: Parodied. Ricky steals a milkman's uniform to escape and it seem to work pretty well until he runs into all the other freaks, who have also disguised themselves as milkmen. Skuggs looks out the window to see thirteen obviously non-human milkmen having a brawl and simply observes that it must be a very competitive route.
  • Multiple Head Case: Julie and Ernie get turned into a two-headed being and they're at each others' throats after the transformation.
  • Mysterious Middle Initial: It is never revealed what the C in Elijah C. Skuggs' name stands for.
  • Nice Guy: Cowboy never ceases to be friendly, expressing sympathy for Rick after after all the other freaks laugh at his Freak Out, and encouraging the actor to let the little troll into his heart. Echoing that last point during Rick's fight with Stuey is what snaps him out of mutagen-induced rage.
  • Obscured Special Effects: We never see Stuey's face when he's being repeatedly thrown through glass doors to cover up the fact that these shots are actually being performed by adult stuntman Deep Roy.
  • Oculothorax: The Rastafareyes are literally walking eyeballs. Their pupils act as their mouths.
  • Offscreen Villain Dark Matter: Played with, in that Skuggs needs time to actually get sufficient quantities of Zygrot-24. In fact, he runs out halfway through transforming Ricky, which is why he's Two-Faced through much of the film.
  • Oh, Crap!: Take a look at The Worm's face when everyone else is cheering that the macaroons they ate but he refused held the cure for their mutations.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: All of the freaks attempt to escape by dressing in milkman uniforms (even the hammer). At the same time. Lampshaded when Ortiz claims that it's merely the number of milkmen that is suspicious, though it does actually fool Skuggs, who simply remarks that there being so many of them is why they must be having a knife fight.
    "Twelve milkmen is theoretically possible. Thirteen is silly."
  • Police Are Useless: FBI in this case. They only appear so to speak at the last minute, after the hostages have freed themselves, and after the bad guys got asskicked.
  • Profane Last Words: Toad, the Big Bad's right-hand (toad)man, is silent for the whole movie but mutters a disappointed "Shiiiiiiit..." when the heroes blow him up by putting a lit dynamite stick on his prehensile tongue.
  • Pun:
    • The 'Hideous Frog Man' is just a guy in a scuba outfit (a frogman). And he's revealed to be French, referencing the slur for Frenchmen: "frogs."
    • There's a pair of Rastafarian faceless eyes named "Eye and Eye," referencing the Rastafarian term for "we."
  • Rapid-Fire Comedy: The movie's only 80 minutes long, and at least 40 of those minutes are devoted entirely to silly gags and purposefully dumb jokes.
  • Resized Vocals: George Ramirez's voice becomes a barely intelligible high-pitched shriek as he shrinks in size while talking about the apparent safety of the toxic fertilizer Zygrot 24.
  • Rule of Funny: Pretty much what the entire film is running on.
  • Running Gag:
    • The clueless protester with a "I like Ike" sign shows up a few times, and in the last one he's impaled with the sign.
    • The Oxford professor that appears during Beast Boy's theater performance and gets injured a few times. Every time subtitles appear showing his name and occupation.
  • Severely Specialized Store: Inverted by Everything Except Shoes. They make everything except... you know.
  • Shock-and-Switch Ending: The movie does the trick several times in a row and still ends with a shock. Though the switch for it is not shown, the numerous previous ones will do.
  • Shout-Out:
    • There is mention of a film titled Ghost Dude (Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey).
    • The head of the famous horned cyclops in The 7th Voyage of Sinbad appears for a moment during Ernie and Julie's transformation.
    • Stuey has at home a cardboard cutout of RoboDude, that is essentially Coogan's face pasted on RoboCop's body.
    • Ernie and Julie briefly turn into Gumby and Pokey during their mutation sequence. Gumby-Julie starts pulling his pud and flips off Skuggs.
    • As Ricky, Ernie and Juley ride through the forest to get to the "freek show," the animal sounds they hear include the signature whoops of Woody Woodpecker and The Three Stooges. A lot of the slapstick humor in the film is an homage to Looney Tunes and the Stooges.
    • In early scenes, Ernie wears a Red Hot Chili Peppers shirt. Winter and Stern directed some early videos for the band.
    • Ortiz forces Ricky, Ernie and Julie into a game of The Hollywood Squares, complete with (the skeleton of) Paul Lynde in the center square.
    • When the EES executives are said to turn into "a really big shoe," this is a reference to The Ed Sullivan Show, in which the host would famously pronounce "show" like "shoe" when saying his catch phrase, "Are you ready for a really big show?"
  • Slapstick: Being stuck sharing a body with Ernie, whom she can't stand, means Julie engages in, and is on the receiving end of, a lot Stooge-stye slap fights, nose twists, and eye pokes.
  • Spiritual Successor: To The Idiot Box, a short-lived sketch comedy show on MTV. The joke at the beginning about the Flying Gimp being destroyed is a reference to a recurring sketch called "Eddie the Flying Gimp from Outer Space." Many actors who appeared in The Idiot Box also appear in the film.
  • Stealing from the Hotel: When Ricky tells Elijah that he's not supposed to have Zygrot-24, Elijah holds up a pair of Ramada Inn towels and replies that he's not supposed to have those either.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: Ricky comes up with a plan to steal a milkman's uniform, only to discover that every single other freak is also trying to escape by wearing a milkman uniform.
  • Stylistic Suck: The laughably inept crayon drawing of Ricky's mutated form that Stuey tries to get various news organizations to run. Which still somehow works.
  • Tabloid Melodrama: When Stuey tries to get the info out on what happened to Ricky, Weekly World News is the only one who takes him seriously and doesn't throw him out of the window (so Stuey throws himself out the window). Somehow, it works, although the FBI apparently investigated three other stories in the WWN first.
  • Take That!:
    • When Skuggs decides to mutate Ricky, Julie and Ernie into freaks, one of the settings on his computer is "Michael Jackson".
    • Brooke Shields (as Skye) says that she heard Return to the Blue Lagoon was terrible. This is an Actor Allusion.
    • Ricky is enraged to be told that he's an inferior actor to Christian Slater.
    • The milk man states that a piece of shit kind of looks like Winona Ryder.
    • When Ricky asserts, "The public does not want to see disgusting, depraved, violent filth," Elijah counters, "Then I suppose Jake And The Fat Man was just a fluke?"
  • Testosterone Poisoning: "Macheesmo! Real cheese for real men! Now in a handy aluminum dispenser."
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: Stuey puts up with a lot of pain throughout the film, but by the end, he finally earns the love and respect of his idol. Of course, he is stuck as a hideous 8-foot tall monstrosity with no hope of ever getting cured, but he's fine with that, especially since it now means he can No-Sell whatever abuse he gets and return it in full force.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: One trailer shows Ricky and Stuey's final grotesque forms and the EES board being sprayed with Zygrot 24.
  • Two-Faced: Ricky Coogan becomes a hideous monster on one side of his body after being mutated.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Ortiz is counting on this to get most of the freaks snuck out, but thinks that Ricky dressing like a milkman is just one milkman too many, and a knife fight ensues. Skuggs looks out and does note the unusual number of milkmen — and decides that the knife fight is just because it's a really competitive route.
  • Verbed Title: The film's title is Freaked.
  • Visual Pun: Skuggs' computer has a mouse that is an actual stuffed mouse.
  • The Voiceless: Toad doesn't talk for most of the film. He gets one line after accidentally eating a lit stick of dynamite: "Aw, shit!"
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Ernie projectile vomits after seeing Ricky's hideous appearance. Julie tries not to throw up, but couldn't manage.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: The giant Rasta eyeballs are easily dispatched when Stuey throws dirt on them.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Stuey, Julie, and many protesters call out Ricky for sponsoring the evil, toxic Zygrot-24.
  • With Catlike Tread: The comical version, where the freaks make plenty of noise when enacting Ricky's plan to stop Skuggs but he fails to notice them. And then someone drops a styrofoam cup.
  • Yes-Man: EES's board of directors consist of four identical old men who are literally puppets of the CEO. He has them vote by pulling a lever that raises their hands.
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: The overall reaction of Ricky as he runs from one vehicle to another, trying to use at least one of them to escape, but finding them all blocked in various ways.