Perhaps the most difficult part of presenting a genre story, be it science fiction, fantasy, or horror is presenting that world to the viewer. A world that can be similar to our own or different in ways we couldn’t have imagined, it all hinges on the audience accepting it. Many stories are up-front, telling the viewer through exposition or narration to give them all the details on the universe they are about to enter. Freaks is of a smaller percentage, one that deserves more respect, for dropping us in and letting us piece together the clues of this mysterious, dangerous new world.
Freaks follows a young girl named Chloe (Lexy Kolker) who has spent her entire life living with her paranoid and sleep deprived Dad (Emile Hirsch) inside their derelict home. He homeschools her, teaching her basic curriculum, but also survival techniques, instilling an intense fear of the world and of strangers, and how to act ‘normal.’ But Chloe longs to see the outside, tempted by a jaunty ice cream truck that pulls up directly in front of her home as though to taunt her. The truck run by the eccentric Mr. Snowcone (Bruce Dern) who catches eye and seems to know more than an average ice cream man. As Chloe’s hunger for freedom and ice cream grows, she’ll become entangled in the web of danger and intrigue that led to her isolated existence, the eerie phenomena around her, and the fate of her mother…
Freaks was directed and written by Zach Lipovsky and Adam B. Stein, who have done work with Disney properties such as MECH-X4 and the upcoming live-action Kim Possible movie. Which makes perfect sense for a story such as this, doing excellent work with the young lead actress, Lexy Kolker. Though the film is low-budgeted, with a small cast and locations, it works incredibly well for the way they unfold the story accentuated with some rather nice looking SF and CGI. Starting in Chloe’s room and the quarantined existence she lives in before expanding outside the home and showing rather than telling the bizarre state of the world. The mystery of Chloe, her father, and the threat against them is enthralling for its slow speed and obscurity, which is why I want to avoid as many details as possible and recommend going to see the story as blind as you can.
The cast really shines in such a small scope but major spotlight. Bruce Dern as the ambiguously sinister ‘Mr. Snowcone’ gets our attention with every appearance. Acting jovial to Chloe, but hinting at whatever wicked objectives he has in mind. Emile Hirsch shines as Chloe’s father, frightening in his sheer devotion to protecting his daughter from whatever danger he sees from the outside world and whether it’s founded in reality or some sort of mad delusion. And of course, Lexy Kolker does a phenomenal job as Chloe. A child in a hazardous situation, but still with childish attitudes toward it and wants like dessert and the love of a mother figure.
Once you see the movie, the influences on the story will be quite clear. Which makes the subversions and twists to the genre all the more interesting. There are a couple of pacing issues once things become clear, but the film must be commended for pulling off such an intricate slow-burn reveal.
If you’re in the mood for a mystery combined with a family drama of amazing proportions, see Freaks and prepare for some shocks.
And check out iHorror’s own Kelly McNeely interview with Freaks directors/writers, Zach Lipovsky and Adam B. Stein!