Awfully Good: Freaked

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

If you've already re-watched EXCELLENT ADVENTURE and BOGUS JOURNEY in preparation for BILL AND TED FACE THE MUSIC, here's another totally tubular trip you can take to help get you in the mood…


Freaked (1993)


Director: Alex Winter
Stars: Alex Winter, Randy Quaid, Megan Ward, Keanu Reeves

FREAKED poster

A self-absorbed Hollywood superstar unwittingly becomes the latest grotesque creation in a mad scientist's South American freak show.

Keanu Reeves took the success of the BILL AND TED movies and turned it in to an impressive, longstanding career. He quickly showcased his diversity starring in Shakespeare and Bram Stoker adaptations (with varying degrees of success), found blockbuster stardom with SPEED and THE MATRIX, and years later enjoyed a career renaissance with JOHN WICK and beyond.

Alex Winter, on the other hand, immediately made FREAKED—a movie that bombed spectacularly, but, in a just world, would've made him equally famous as a writer, director, and actor. Winter still enjoyed a career mainly as a filmmaker, including a couple fantastic technology-focused documentaries, but I always wonder what would've happened if FREAKED had been a big hit and what other works of vulgar genius we may have missed out on.

I've heard of a handjob, but this is ridiculous!

For the uninitiated, FREAKED is a hilarious and underrated comedy: a no-punches-pulled satire on Hollywood elitism, corporate American greed, society's shallow obsessions and failings—all caked under 200 pounds of special effects makeup and non-PC jokes. I feel safe including it in this column because of its cult status and just how off-puttingly weird it can be, but make no mistake, this is not a "bad" movie. It succeeds admirably at what it sets out to do, which is apparently keep you laughing, occasionally confuse and gross you out, and maybe make you think twice about fertilizing your yard.

While I think most Awfully Good fans would enjoy it, the film is odd and niche enough that's it not super hard to see why a studio would balk at its mainstream appeal. The story goes that Fox studio chief Joe Roth loved the concept and gave Winter and co-writer/director Tom Stern $12 million to run wild with it. But when a new head executive took over in the middle of production, one that completely did not understand the film or its humor, he slashed the budget, changed the title, and immediately squashed all advertising. Despite getting some good festival buzz, FREAKED was only released in two theaters, doomed to gain a slow but steady audience on home video.

FREAKED middle fingers
This character was created especially for the Fox executive team.

Winter stars in the film as an egotistical actor (most famous for playing a bro in a popular movie called GHOST DUDE) who takes a multi-million payday from an evil Monsanto-like corporation to travel to South America and hock their latest brand of fertilizer. He brings along his misogynist BFF for the trip and as soon as they arrive, picks up a female environmental activist in an attempt to sleep with her. The trio make a detour to a roadside freak show and meet the proprietor—an insane mad scientist played by the previously sane Randy Quaid—who quickly kidnaps them and turns them in to hideous creations using the same brand of fertilizer. (Irony!)

The friend and the girl become bickering Three Stooges conjoined twins, while Winter is turned in to a two-faced gremlin creature, a truly impressive prosthetic piece that looks like it must've been hell for the actor to wear every day. Soon they meet the other freaks, which includes a bearded lady played by Mr. T, a man with a foul-mouthed sock puppet for a head voiced by Bobcat Goldthwait, a literal cow-boy played by Deadwood's John Hawkes, a giant nose, a giant worm, a guy who farts fire constantly, and the hideous Frogman, who is just a man in a scuba suit.

FREAKED gremlins
So is Zach Galligan…

Winter also saved a couple small roles for his BILL AND TED co-stars Keanu Reeves and William Sadler. Sadler plays the head of the evil fertilizer company, while Reeves is completely unrecognizable in heavy fur makeup and a thick Hispanic accent as Ortiz the Dog Boy. Reeves goes uncredited, even though I'm sure Winter could've put more asses in more seats by plugging this as a BILL AND TED reunion. (Fun Fact: A young Johnny Knoxville was apparently Reeves' double on the movie when the in-demand actor wasn't available.)

FREAKED keanu reeves dog
No wonder John Wick got so angry when they killed his dog

FREAKED has a very hyperactive and colorful early-90's MTV aesthetic. (It was originally pitched as a horror movie starring The Butthole Surfers, which pretty much tells you all you need to know.) It's one of those Monty Python and AIRPLANE-style movies where there are a thousand jokes a minute. From the amazing seizure-inducing opening credits to the daytime talk show-skewering ending with Brooke Shields, the jokes fly fast and free and are surprisingly varied. You get a ton of clever sight gags, some random non-sequiturs, and a little gross out humor. (Okay, A LOT of gross out humor.) And unlike an aircraft that explodes on touchdown, most of the jokes land. The script is tight and clever, especially for how "stupid" and low-brow some of the humor is, with so many great and memorable lines. If you've seen this more than once, I'd argue that FREAKED is just as quotable as BILL AND TED.

A lot of the above only works because of how great the special effects are that bring everything together. I know $12 million sounds like a lot for an early 90s comedy, but given the quick production schedule and the sheer amount of practical effects—both makeup and visual—it's a miracle that everything looks as good as it does. (For those who care about VFX, you may spot some recognizable names in the credits, including KILLER KLOWNS' Stephen Chiodo and SOCIETY's Screaming Mad George.) The freaks all look fun and convincing given the film's outlandish tone. And I'm sure it was no easy task bringing to life what had to have sounded completely insane on paper.

"Two sentient eyeballs armed with submachine guns that live inside a giant papier-mâché replica of Randy Quaid's head? F*ck yeah, let's build all of it!"

FREAKED nose nosey
Sadly, NARCOS failed to include Pablo Escobar's real arch nemesis.

There's a lot more to FREAKED, but giving away anything else would spoil some of the film's many surprises. It's just a movie that works hard and goes the extra mile to entertain. A great showcase for Winter's many talents, it's definitely a film of it's time, but a lot of the humor still holds up and most of the targets it mocks are sadly still just as worthy of a bullseye today. If you haven't seen it before, now is a great time to check it out.

Cow Boy's udders are on full display. Pervert.

FREAKED scoreBuy the Movie Watch the Movie

Take a shot or drink every time:

  • A child is injured
  • Someone likes Ike
  • There's an homage to the Three Stooges
  • Someone farts
  • Someone refers to a penis as a "rodney"
  • A dummy is used as part of a gag
  • Pus shoots from Winter's face

Double shot if:

  • Cousin Eddie talks about his shitter


Thanks to Gregory for suggesting this week's movie!


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


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