Cast: Lexy Kolker, Emile Hirsch, Bruce Dern, Amanda Crew
Directors: Adam Stein, Zach Lipovsky
When a film can sneak under the radar either due to its low budget or production value, it usually means either the movie wasn’t worth watching or it will be labeled underrated when more people get access to it. When it comes to Freaks this is definitely a case of the later as this is the type of movie that could easily end up on my best of the year list. A near-perfect combination of an ensemble cast, an interesting story, and just the right amount of humor to set the tone for the rest of the film help Freaks prove its point while still entertaining audiences for 103 minutes.
The film follows the Henry Lewis (Hirsch) and his daughter Ellie (Kolker), who live in a boarded up house to prevent the “bad guys” from finding them and killing them. Having never been outside before, Ellie longs for a day where she can go and play outside like all the other kids. When an ice cream truck driven my Mr. Snowcone (Dern) parks outside the Lewis house, the temptation is too much for Ellie and she escapes to finally see what the outside world has to offer. What she discovers changes the dynamic between her and her father and heightens the danger that she already faces. That danger is what makes the film successful as for the first half of the movie, you don’t know whether or not Henry is telling the truth to keep his daughter safe or is just being abusive. This uncertainty makes you feel uneasy towards every character in the cast as you never know who’s really right, but that makes the reveal that much better. The dynamics that exist between these characters really come into their own in the second half and we see the gravity of their situation and how these three can help or harm the other characters to get what they want. While most of the movie has a generally dark tone surrounding it, the fact that it can switch it up and go directly into a joke makes the movie feel lighter than it actually is. They tend to come out of nowhere but since the humor is relatively dark it helps show off a different angle to the plot. Outside of that, this trio shows us just how important it is for a cast to be able to play off one another. Specifically, Kolker having the most screen time as the youngest actress in the movie never took away from the film’s experience and shows us a brilliant combination of both fear and innocence. From the rest of the cast, Hirsch and Dern serve well in roles where they are verbal adversaries that still want the best for Ellie. When we see both of their plans come to a head, the world surrounding them shows us that the audience really doesn’t know what to expect and that’s what makes Freaks so special. A rare combination of absurdity grounded in reality, Freaks shows us how we would treat those different than us if the proper situations arise.
Overall, I didn’t know what to expect from a movie that premiered at 2018’s TIFF and is just getting a release, but I don’t know why no one decided to pick this up and promote it sooner. Maybe because it’s a smaller movie that doesn’t have the general appeal that a normal sci-fi movie has, but Freaks has the ability to go toe-to-toe with any major release this year regardless of genre. There are very movies this year as interesting and captivating as Freaks and it just goes to show that the scope and size of a movie’s budget has no impact on its ability to be interesting and creative.
Overall Score: 9/10