Freaks Movie Review
The best part about the original sci-fi thriller Freaks is that for a good chunk of its running time, you’re not sure what is real, what is imagined, or what exactly the hell is going on. Writing-directing duo Zach Lipovsky and Adam B. Stein purposefully keep you at arm’s length for quite a while, opting to tell their story through the eyes of lead protagonist Chloe (Lexy Kolker). It’s a worthwhile move, the mystery arguably more satisfying than the answer.
Chloe lives in a house and has been seemingly confined within under the direction of her father (Emile Hirsch), who either is rightfully protective or batshit crazy. Chloe has special gifts but is largely unaware they are special, and an ice cream man (Bruce Dern) who often hangs around the house appears to have hidden motives.
What matters most is that Chloe doesn’t know what’s going on, which means you don’t either. Lipovsky and Stein make the most of the off-kilter world they have envisioned, injecting a sense of eeriness and suspicion into every corner of every scene. Between its title and its Friday the 13th theatrical release date, Freaks is clearly being positioned as a form of horror movie, but sci-fi thriller is a much more apt description.
Hirsch, whose star power plummeted after he violently attacked a Paramount executive years ago (never forget!), is nonetheless a good actor and he makes the most of the opportunity, delivering a sometimes manic and certainly emotional performance. But it’s young Kolker who rightfully steals the show, charging ahead with a dangerous innocence that evolves significantly as the story progresses.
Once things click into place and you realize what’s going on, Freaks does lose a bit of its luster. It is clearly inspired by a certain famous comic book series—the similarities are the least original aspect of the production—but the filmmakers do a fine job of taking a unique angle to it all. Even still, the third act is unfortunately much more conventional than the rest of the movie—a shame given how strongly it starts out.
Freaks isn’t an amazing movie, but Lipovsky and Stein have created an intriguing and oft suspenseful thriller that is just odd enough to separate itself from its more mainstream counterparts.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.