Awfully Good: Drop Dead Fred

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

The late Rik Mayall had many credits to his name, but to me, he’ll always be…

Drop Dead Fred (1991)

Director: Ate de Jong
Stars: Phoebe Cates, Rik Mayall, Carrie Fisher


After her life starts falling apart, a young woman begins to see her psychotic imaginary friend from childhood.

It’s funny watching a movie you loved as a child decades later. Sometimes nostalgia can cloud your memory, leaving you surprised: “I used to enjoy watching THAT?! And sometimes, as is the case with DROP DEAD FRED, you realize, “What were my parents thinking letting me watch that?”

This is not a children’s movie. It deals with childhood and the title character is wacky and cartoonish in ways that might be appealing to little ones, but it’s not for kids. I discovered this 30 seconds in to the film, when the six-year old little girl (the same age I was when I first saw this) hears a bedtime story and responds with “What a pile of shit!”

Stewie Griffin did not age well.

Things are played for laughs, as DROP DEAD FRED takes on a distinct BEETLEJUICE vibe. (There’s even a similar waiting room scene.) But underneath all the zaniness is a serious undertone of mental illness, emotional abuse and chronic depression—all great things for a comedy! Phoebe Cates loses her husband, her job, her money and her car, all in one lunch hour. Despite the pleas of her friend Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), she goes home to live with her manipulative, psychologically crippling mother. Once there she reverts back to a childlike state, releasing the presence of her former imaginary British friend, Drop Dead Fred. Fred feeds on her inner turmoil, forcing her to wreak havoc and further destroy her life, all while she creepily plans ways to force her ex-husband to take her back.

This deleted scene from BASIC INSTINCT really did kill the tension.

Suffice to say, Drop Dead Fred is a terrible role model way beyond normal childhood mischief. We see him convince his young apprentice to terrorize the elderly, shave cats, and break in to houses to play burglar. And then there’s his penchant for looking up women’s skirts to see if they’re wearing underwear. Rik Mayall is great as the force-of-nature Fred, but the script plays him a little too deranged. Mainly, the fact that his character is so obsessed with death and murder. Every time he sees Phoebe Cates’ mom (nicknamed “Megabitch”) the two talk about cutting off her head with scissors and chainsaws, chopping up her dead body so they can eat it, and then pooing it out on the table. Coupled with Cates’ fragile mental state (and the fact that she’s six years old in a lot of these scenes), it’s more alarming than it is funny. (I’m sure someone has already re-edited this in to a horror movie trailer.) The film also continually tries to paint the mother as the evil villain, but given how legitimately crazy her daughter is, she’s actually the most sympathetic character in the movie.

At least Boston Market is making their food fresh at the table now.

There’s a worthwhile film to be made about imaginary friends as emotional support for kids coping with trauma, but this is not it. The majority of DROP DEAD FRED walks the line between ultra-dark comedy and terrifying psychological horror; however, the end really goes off the deep end. Phoebe Cates’ husband returns and convinces her to start taking pills that cure her of her psychosis and physically kill Fred. However, when she discovers that her husband is still cheating on her, Cates completely loses it and merges with Fred’s dying body and enters in to his crazy world. There she finds the actual physical manifestation of her childhood innocence, imprisoned by her overbearing mother, and literally frees it. Fred, being creepy, tells her that she can’t leave his head until she kisses him on the lips. Once she does that and returns to the real world, she wipes a booger on her husband and then leaves him to live happily ever after.

Though The Riddler is technically an evil supervillain, he’s still a step up from Kevin Kline.

Despite still having serious mental health issues, Cates shacks up with a childhood friend who encourages her insane behavior because he thinks it’s cute. Everything is great until she discovers that her new stepdaughter now also has an imaginary friend named Drop Dead Fred who is terrorizing their nanny. The poor babysitter is literally hanging upside down from a rope as Cates tells the little girl, “Next time you see Fred, give him my love.” Ignoring the fact that this is a terrible reaction to what is legally an assault; I thought the entire point of the movie was that Fred was just a coping mechanism to help Cates survive and grow up in a troubled environment. Nope! He’s just an unstoppable force of terror that latches on to any child, willing them to engage in anarchy and murder.

Again, this was one of my favorite movies as a six year old. Thanks a lot, mom and dad.

We miss you, Phoebe. Return to us.

No panties, wet dreams and kids saying the darndest things (involving decapitations and defecations).

The best of Fred and his friends, as well as Phoebe Cates and Carrie Fisher acting like crazy people.

No FAST TIMES for Phoebe Cates, but Fred does disrobe a male waiter.

R.I.P. Fred. Buy this movie here!

Take a shot or drink every time:

  • There’s a flashback
  • Fred looks up someone’s skirt
  • Phoebe Cates talks to herself or acts crazy
  • Phoebe Cates sneezes
  • Phoebe Cates takes a green pill
  • Ron Eldard is friendzoned

Double shot if:

  • Drop Dead Fred says, “Awfully Good”

Thanks to Alex and Tyson for suggesting this week’s movie!

Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email or follow him on Twitter and give him an excuse to drink.


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