Release Date(s)1999 (March 28, 2023)
Studio(s)Alliance Cinema/The Kushner-Locke Company (Vinegar Syndrome)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B+
If writer/director Matthew Bright’s Freeway was an exercise in bad taste, then his sequel Freeway II: Confessions of a Trickbaby is bad taste as performance art. The first film had offered its fair share of extremity, but for the most part, the boundaries that it pushed were more in terms of character than of content. Vanessa (Reese Witherspoon) had been an unbridled force of nature, joyously reveling in her own inherent trashiness. Her personal empowerment served to disempower the entire system that surrounded her. Freeway was very much a self-contained story, and Bright never intended to make a sequel to it. Yet since it performed reasonably well, especially on home video, the producers encouraged Bright to write a new installment. Since nothing breeds excess like success, he chose to double down on the most extreme elements from the first film, pushing the boundaries of good taste even farther this time. Freeway may have been a deliberate middle finger to conventional Hollywood storytelling, but Freeway II gleefully sticks that finger where the sun won’t shine.
Freeway II: Confessions of a Trickbaby is a sequel in name only, with no direct ties to the original, other than the fact that both films take inspiration from different fairy tales. Freeway was a thinly-veiled retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, but Freeway II opted to riff on Hansel and Gretel instead—although it takes its own sweet time to get to that point. White Girl (Natasha Lyonne) is a young prostitute who’s been sentenced to serve 25 years for various crimes, but before she can do her time, she’s sent to a minimum-security hospital in order to treat her bulimia. There, she ends up befriending Cyclona (María Celedonio), a serial killer who suffers from the same disorder. The two of them end up escaping and heading to Mexico, where Cyclona promises that they’ll be rescued by Sister Gomez (Vincent Gallo). Yet they’ll be lost in the woods long before they get there, and the siren call of Sister Gomez may not quite be what it seems. Freeway II also stars David Alan Grier, Michael T. Weiss, Bob Dawson, and Jenn Griffen.
Freeway II: Confessions of a Trickbaby opens with perhaps the ultimate in bad taste: a cameo by John Landis, playing the judge who sentences White Girl. That sums up the film better than anything else ever could, but Bright also throws in sexual abuse, human trafficking, and cannibalism, wrapped up in a tasty layer of bodily fluids that includes gallons of vomit. Bad taste can certainly be an end unto itself, but the first film had a strong central character in the form of Vanessa to hold all of the outrageousness together. Thanks partly to Witherspoon’s innate charisma, Vanessa remained sympathetic no matter what she did. That’s not true of White Girl, though that’s not necessarily Natasha Lyonne’s fault. Bright simply didn’t give her as compelling of a character to play, and his insistence on wallowing in the mire meant that she’s given far too many unpleasant things to do in the film. As a result, White Girl’s eventual redemption (of sorts) rings hollow compared to Vanessa’s arc. Still, taken on its own terms, Freeway II: Confessions of a Trickbaby is definitely a memorable ride, albeit one where the bad taste won’t be to everyone’s... well, taste.
Cinematographer Joel Ransom shot Freeway II: Confessions of a Trickbaby in 35 mm film using spherical lenses, framed at 1.85:1. This version uses a new 4K scan taken from the original camera negative, cleaned up and graded for High Dynamic Range (only HDR10 is included on the disc). Freeway II was a significantly lower-budgeted project than the original Freeway was, and while there are some ragged edges from the original production still visible, this is a fairly impressive presentation of the film. There are a few artifacts on display like some black boxes that appear at the edge of the frame at 56:18, but that’s the camera or lighting equipment creeping into the shot, not damage to the negative. There’s also some instability during the closing credits. Otherwise, everything appears quite clean, with a heavy sheen of grain at all times, but the encoding is up to the task of handling it. The colors and contrast range are tweaked slightly with the new HDR grade, but never exaggerated too far, and the black levels are appropriately deep, without crushing detail. Confessions of a Trickbaby will never be a pretty film, but this 4K version is as pretty as it could possibly look.
Audio is offered in English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio, with optional English SDH subtitles. Freeway II was released theatrically in Dolby Stereo, at least for its festival showings, as it otherwise went direct to video. There are some sporadic surround effects, such as thunder and a bird or two, but for the most part, everything is focused on the front channels. There’s also not much in the way of stereo spread, so when properly decoded, most of the sonic information steers to the center channel. It’s effectively a mono mix with just the occasional effect to remind viewers that it really is Dolby Stereo after all. Everything sounds as clear as it can, with no significant noise or distortion.
Vinegar Syndrome’s 4K Ultra HD release of Freeway II: Confessions of a Trickbaby is a two-disc set that includes a Blu-ray with a 1080p copy of the film. The insert is reversible, featuring new artwork by Robert Sammelin on the front, and the original Full Moon artwork on the flip side. There’s also a Limited Edition spot gloss slipcover available directly from Vinegar Syndrome, designed by Sammelin, that’s limited to the first 6,000 units. There are no extras on the UHD, so the following extras are confined to the Blu-ray only:
- Once Upon a White Girl: Remembering Confessions of a Trickbaby (HD – 98:05)
- Bright on Dark (HD – 23:30)
- Disrupt and Revolt (HD – 28:45)
- Archival Interview with Matthew Bright (Upscaled SD – 4:00)
- Archival Interview with Samuel Hadida (Upscaled SD – 4:36)
- BTS Footage (Upscaled SD – 27:44)
- Still Gallery (HD – 6:48)
Once Upon a White Girl is a new feature-length documentary on the making of Freeway II, featuring interviews with Matthew Bright; producers Chris Hanley, Roberta Hanley, & Brad Wyman; composer Kennard Ramsey; production designer Brian Davie; editor Suzanne Hines; and actors Jenn Griffen & April Telek. Since Bright and the producers were involved with the original Freeway, it actually opens by describing the production of that film, before explaining how the sequel came together. While it wasn’t originally intended to be a series, at one point, there was potentially going to be a trilogy, with the unproduced Pickpocket being the third installment. They do discuss the negative reactions to Confessions of a Trickbaby, with Bright calling it his least favorite of his films, and Griffen saying that while she had hoped to achieve cult success, this ended up being the McDonald’s version of her dreams. (She also claims that it’s not exploitative of either bulimia or child abduction, which is a bit of a stretch.) Bright says that he felt more of a kindred spirit with Lyonne than he did with Reese Witherspoon on the first film. Bright makes a few other comments about Canadian girls that border on being a bit creepy, and there’s plenty of discussion about the rampant drug use on the set, so this is definitely not your average studio-endorsed sanitized documentary.
Bright on Dark is a 2018 interview with the director, who talks about his career and his influences, admitting that he’s always been fascinated by the dark side of human nature. He spends plenty of time giving his thoughts about Confessions of a Trickbaby—he says he’s no longer the same person who made it, so these days, it’s like watching a film that was made by someone else. Disrupt and Revolt is a laid-back 2018 interview with producer Chris Hanley, who talks about his own career and his work with Bright. The Archival Interviews with Bright and executive producer Samuel Hadida were originally included on the French Region 2 DVD release from Metropolitan Vidéo. While Bright covers similar topics to the other interviews on the disc, Hadida does offer a different perspective on the production. (He says that the planned third film would have been based on The Three Little Pigs, with cops named Ham and Bacon.) Finally, the BTS Footage is a loose compilation of fly-on-the-wall footage captured on the set, and the Image Gallery offers various photographs and production materials.
From a sheer quantity perspective, that’s a few less extras than Vinegar Syndrome included with their UHD release of the first Freeway, but one good making-of documentary is worth its weight in standalone interviews, especially when it’s as uninhibited as this one. Freeway II: Confessions of a Trickbaby won’t be for everyone, but for existing fans (or adventurous newcomers), Vinegar Syndrome’s UHD is the best way to experience it. Just enter this gingerbread house at your own risk.
- Stephen Bjork