The Freakmaker (1974) – By Jonathon Pernisek

 The Freakmaker, also known by the arguably more generic title The Mutations, is a movie trying way too hard to fit in with its peers of the era. One part psychedelic drug trip and another exploitive horror fest, it technically has all of the nuts and bolts needed to draw in a stoned audience looking for some cheap visual and mental thrills. It’s too bad the film is so hopelessly boring, acting as a weight on anyone hapless enough to pop it into their DVD player.

I think the trouble can be attributed to the cast, which is made up almost entirely of men and women from that always lively and colorful nation, the United Kingdom. Not to say everyone within the UK borders is a dull sod, but you start to wonder when they’re represented by some of the blandest actors ever to be put in front of a camera. And what’s worse, they’re playing hip and happening young adults, college students who actually throw parties where records play and tea is served. Yes, tea. Man, those UK kids really knew how to rip it wild during the ‘70s, eh?

So what exactly do these characters do in the context of this drippy little pudding stain of a movie? Well, when they’re not furrowing their brows or laughing at bad jokes written by bad screenwriters, they’re dealing with that all-powerful source of evil known as Donald Pleasance. Yes, the man most commonly known as Michael Myers’ adversary (as well as the articulation-challenged villain in Puma Man) is the big name star of this here picture, which should probably give you a clue as to how low it sinks. Donald plays a crazy scientist who, with help from his physically disfigured minions, kidnaps our heroes and turns them into disgusting, man-plant hybrids. Horrifying, yes? No, not really, considering the veggie monsters look like discarded Muppet creations.

Let’s start a new paragraph, and have it dedicated to the walking nightmare of a performance Donald gives in The Freakmaker. While it’s true I stressed how wholly and totally uninteresting the supposedly “cool” kids were as they moved through this story, it is Donald’s thankless task to officially crash this proverbial ship into the coast. And boy, does he ever succeed. It’s as if the man outright refuses to move any part of his face, from the eyebrow and lid to the muscles in his chin. What’s worse is how much of the film is spent focusing on this black hole of an actor as he delivers scientific monologues so dense and useless it would make a grown man weep. As a doorstop Donald might be useful, but as a thespian he’s completely useless.

Want more bang for your buck? How about endless footage of blooming plants that will make you think about male-female genitalia despite your best attempts to do otherwise? Lord knows we could all use such an experience. Ooh, how about actual sideshow freaks trying to act? Man, there’s nothing I like more than listening to the hyper-falsetto of an elderly midget as she stares catatonically into the camera. Yep, it makes me feel warm and cozy all over. And when the anorexic woman came out, whoo! Talk about wonderful. It’s good to know people in the ‘70s considered eating disorders to be a sign of the carnival folk. Sorry, I’m being sarcastic at this point, which is not the best trait to have as a serious film critic. To get us back to a more honest point, I will say that ultimately The Freakmaker is more forgettable than anything truly harmful to the psyche. Though Donald’s performance is truly one for the books, it surely won’t anger a viewer so much as send them into a hazy nap. And the plant footage I mentioned earlier, while truly bizarre and unsettling, at least takes us away from the UK suburbanites and their insipid plotlines. It all comes together to form a rather cold evening at the movies, so if you have the choice, go with anything else when your fingers are itching for a DVD.