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How To Make A Movie Freak-Show

Spinning onto DVD and Blu-ray this week is neck-chewing freak-fest Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant . Which got us dreaming of the bygone days when we were young-guns, fantasising about starting our own cool-as-hell freak-show.

So, in the name of nostalgia and in honour of dreams dreamt but never lived, here's what we decided are the vital ingredients to creating a successful movie freak-show...

Freak-Shows Rule!

The Cliché: Everybody dreams of running away with the circus. Why? Because they’re really cool, of course.

Appears In: Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant (2009)

How To Make It Real: Start by making a list of cool stuff. Umm, okay, so... Jetpacks, Quentin Tarantino, 3D, glitter, Curly Wurlys, monsters with, like, massive fangs.

Right. Now think how you can apply all that to a freak-show.

Tarantino’s probably out, but if you can get yourself some 3D glasses and a glitter-covered monster in a jetpack eating a Curly Wurly as it launches itself through the air... Well, you’re onto a winner there, aren’t you?

Next: There's No Business Like Show [page-break]

There’s No Business Like Show...

The Cliché: A canny businessman with a moneybox where his heart should be knows exactly how to exploit the public and/or the freaks for profitable gain. He’ll be the fella with pupils shaped like pound signs.

Appears In: Howling VI: The Freaks (1991), Are You With It? (1948)

How To Make It Real: Any business venture requires heaps of cash to get the ball rolling. Freak-shows are no different.

So it’s probably best that you sign up for a business degree or similar to get your head around the numbers, the taxman and the various pitfalls (and pratfalls) that come with starting out in the world.

Or just cheat and rob your nearest bank chain. Time for another list: balaclava, water pistol painted black...

Next: Clowning Around [page-break]

Clowning Around

The Cliché: A freak-show is nothing without clowns.

Appears In: The Greatest Show On Earth (1952)

How To Make It Real: Clowns are probably the easiest freaks to recreate. Grab a bunch of mates, some water-based face paint (important, that), and have a merry old time making everybody look proper stupid.

You’ll probably want to enrol at Clown College as well (see: Homer Simpson ), just so you learn how to wear those giant shoes properly. Oh, and avoid a lawsuit when you squirt water from a flower into a baby’s eye.

Next: Brotherly Love [page-break]

Brotherly Love

The Cliché: Freaks always manage to find their way to the circus, where they spend their life touring with their brethren.

Appears In: Freaks (1932)

How To Make It Real: Yeah, this one’ll take a bit of initiative. See, you need the freaks to come to you.

So it’s time to mount Campaign Freak-Finder. Get your techie mate to create a snazzy-looking website asking for all web-bound freakazoids to come forward and join your troupe.

Get your mum/nan/sibling to bake some Freak-Finder cakes and/or cookies, and have one of those Yankified bake sale things. Hopefully some freaks will show up.

Hire a plane and get them to do a bit of sky writing on your behalf.

In other words, get yourself out there and let the freaks know where you are! They'll soon come slithering.

Next: A Family Affair [page-break]

A Family Affair

The Cliché: If your mother was a freak, it’s pretty likely you are, as well.

Appears In: Brothers Of The Head (2005), Total Recall (1990)

How To Make It Real: If you weren’t lucky enough to be born into a freaky dynasty, you’re plum outta luck here if you were hoping to be a bit freaky yourself.

Still, you could always tango with super gluing a family member to an appendage of your choice (cousin Fred’s new baby would fit just right on the side of your head).

Failing that, bag yourself a freak bird/bloke and start bonking like bunnies. Hopefully your boring normal genes will combine with their freaky genes to create something suitably nightmarish.

Next: Softies [page-break]


The Cliché: Freaks are all really just big softies on the inside, no matter how hideous they are on the outside.

Appears In: The Elephant Man ( 1980), Fur: An Imaginary Portrait Of Diane Arbus (2006), Freaks (1932)

How To Make It Real: Avoid the loony bins, any freaks there are likely to be stark raving bonkers. And you want a freak with a heart of gold.

Time to sweep your old folks’ home, church or local homeless shelter (for golden-souled volunteers). If you’re lucky, you’ll find a strange-but-gentle loner who doesn’t talk much and walks around wearing gloves and a hoody.

Next: Sexy Appeal [page-break]

Sexy Appeal

The Cliché: We’re not afraid to admit this: some freaks can be sexy.

Appears In: Total Recall (1990), Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant (2009)

H ow To Make It Real: You have to work with what you’ve got. If you’re lucky enough to find yourself a bearded lady or a three-titted bird (maybe even a multi-wanged man for the ladies), you’re probably also lucky enough to be sucking on a silver spoon.

The rest of you just pluck out the best-looking freak you’ve got, march him or her down to the nearest Topshop and splash out a bit on some damn cool threads. A trendy haircut should help, too.

Accessories also work wonders: a hat here, a scarf there, maybe a little dollop of eyeliner and Bob’s your auntie!

Next: Variety [page-break]


The Cliché: No two freaks in a show are ever the same, which means it’s all about variety.

Appears In: Freaked (1993)

How To Make It Real: So you’ve got yourself two Crocodile Men. That’ll never do. See, customers want to see a menagerie, not a collection of boring, same-looking chickens.

Take the smaller Crocodile Man and fashion a stick-on back-piece for him then BOOM, you’ve got yourself Iguana Man. Easy.

This sort of thinking also applies to other freaks. Just use your imagination.

Next: On The Road [page-break]

On The Road

The Cliché: Freaks never stay put, forever touring the roads like misshapen boy racers.

Appears In: Carny (1980), Firecracker (2005)

How To Make It Real: Once you’ve assembled your freaks, you’ll want to hit the road as soon as possible to reel back all the cash you’ve spent.

Grab your nan’s caravan from the garage (she never uses it anyway), get one of your more arty freaks to give it a funky paint job and you’re halfway there.

You’ll also need a name. Nina’s Knock-Outs or Will’s Wonderful World Of WTF are already taken, but have a play around. Maybe throw a dart at a dictionary and see what sticks.

And don’t bother with a map. Just get on the road and see where it takes you.

Next: Violence, Violence, Violence [page-break]

Violence, Violence, Violence

Appears In: Dracula vs Frankenstein (1971)

How To Make It Real: Ozzy Osbourne bit the head off a bat. You want your freaks to do something equally horrific. So before they go on stage, get them all hopped up on caffeine, tie a goat to the stage, and let them let rip.

You might want to hand out macks to the front three rows, this could get messy.

Next: Fake Freaks [page-break]

Fake Freaks

Appears In: Nightmare Alley (1947)

How To Make It Real: Easy enough. Plonk your sister in a dark-lit room, give her a silk face veil and some dangly gold earrings and suddenly she’s the mystical Sage Sadie.

Really, if you’re short of freaks, just get creative with some boring Normals. It’s gotta be convincing, though. You don’t want people demanding their money back.

Next: Face Value [page-break]

Face Value

The Cliché: Freak-shows are actually just a front for something much darker, like thievery and murder.

Appears In: Multiple Maniacs (1970)

How To Make It Real: If you’re thinking of becoming a bit of a highwayman, a freak-show is the perfect cover.

Just do all of the above, except while your freaks are on stage performing, skulk about stealing from audience members as they sit enraptured by the show.

Of course, you don’t even really need to put on a show. Just use the caravan and assembled freaks as a cover and thieve to your heart's content.

Next: Face Value [page-break]


Appears In: Freaked (1993)

How To Make It Real: We’ve all got a crazy scientist for an uncle, right? No? Just us? If you haven’t, you can become your own mad scientist.

You’ll want to start by poaching some brightly-coloured substances from the local school’s chemistry lab. While you’re there, grab a Bunsen burner and some of those pickled animals (they might come in useful later).

Then get about 50 extension leads, and put every electrical appliance you own in one room (basement’s probably a good place, though attics will suffice). Now get crazy plugging things in, turning things on, hooking electricity cables up. The key here is radiation.

Now all you need is somebody to experiment on. Pets, younger siblings and annoying neighbours are good targets. Happy experimenting!

Any freak-show clichés/ingredients you can add to the list? Comments below...

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