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Canuxploitation!

Freakshow

1989, Starring Audrey Landers, Peter Reed. Directed by Constantino Magnatta.



One of my childhood memories is being in a bookstore and checking out the comic book adaptation of George Romero's Creepshow. My parents found me reading it and told me that I was too young for it. Of course that just made me want to see the film even more. When I finally saw the movie many years later, I was amazed at the way the comic book style had been translated into the film. Needless to say that started my taste for horror anthology films, and I quickly managed to see Dr Terror's House of Horrors, Vault of Horror, and the sequels to Creepshow.

Of course these films are often uneven. Some of the vignettes are good, and others aren't. No film better illustrates that than this Canadian entry, Freakshow. While Creepshow is successful because it is not only scary but also fun, Freakshow takes itself much too seriously.

The movie begins in a theatre. As the movie lets out, a guy in the parking lot goes crazy and shoots everybody before killing himself. In comes our hero Audrey Landers, starring as a cold hearted TV reporter who does a news report on the incident. After getting ditched by her crew, she ducks into a building with the sign "Freakshow Museum" to use the phone. And we all know what's going to happen now: a guy with a crazy mustache appears and invites her into a room filled with beams of laser lights and lots of dry ice. This might be scary if it didn't remind me of a high school dance. He shows her different vague objects encased in ice which give her "visions," or, our four vignettes.

The first episode is particularly bad, featuring a junkie who kills an effeminate drug dealer only to have the dealer's poodle avenge his death. The second is slightly better, about a pizza delivery gone awry. Nerdy Wilbur gets a job at a pizza parlour and his first delivery is to 1313 Bram Stoker Boulevard. When he gets there, the door mysteriously opens and he walks in to find two scantily clad ladies on a bed dancing to heavy metal ballads. Then 6 or 7 more girls in garters and neck ties come out, and suddenly it's a music video for Heart. Before long we see the girls all have fangs, and Wilbur invites his co-workers to the party. None of this is particularly scary, but it is laughable. The third vignette is just as bad as the first, featuring a woman who has overdosed and appears dead, but she is fully conscious through her own autopsy.

But just when I was about to give up on this film, it delivers a fine slice of CanCon fun. A rich guy has a heart attack on a golf course while his bimbo wife looks on. At his funeral she makes eyes with a young gravedigger named Funk. The wife inherits the golf course, and Funk sells her dirt from the graveyard to use for landscaping. Funk gets his boss (MuchMusic celebrity and CFL booster Dan Gallagher), to help him dig up more and more dirt, replacing it with rocks. One fateful night, Funk's truck breaks down in the graveyard and if that wasn't bad enough, the dead start to rise. And they want their dirt back. I know this because they moan "Diiirrrt...Diirrtt!" They kill Dan Gallagher and then crash a party at the neighbouring golf course, all to the sounds of polka music! Then it quickly turns to 1980s heavy metal and the zombies progress from slowly stalking down the golf club members to driving the golf carts, getting drunk and doing cannonballs in the water hazard. This must be seen to be believed, it's like Night of the Living Dead meets Caddyshack. Finally in the end the wife's zombie husband comes back and kills his wife.

Then it's back to the museum where Mr. Mustache adds the reporter to his "collection." Then, if that ending wasn't stupid enough, they add an even worse conclusion by pulling out of the frame to show that the whole thing has been a movie showing in a theatre. And it's the audience from the beginning who get killed by the gunman, and it all starts happening again. Now this is the scariest part of the film-- it dawns on you that you might have to watch it a second time!

I feel kind of bad for this film. It tries so hard, but it can never rise above it's meager budget, and it seems very confused at times. Am I making a serious anti-drug statement? Am I a wacky comedy? Am I CBC's Video Hits with Dan Gallagher? Speaking of music, Freakshow showcases Canadian heavy metal talent like Clean Slate's "Survivor" during the pizza delivery scene, and the zombies party to "Is Your Metal Heavy?" by the Wankers.

This is another fine example of a Canadian made horror film that unsuccessfully tries to compete with American straight-to-video releases. You should probably skip it.


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