25th Feb2020

‘Freaks’ Blu-ray Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Emile Hirsch, Bruce Dern, Lexy Kolker, Amanda Crew, Grace Park | Written and Directed by Zach Lipovsky, Adam B. Stein


Seven-year-old Chloe never leaves her ramshackle suburban home unless under the watchful eye of her paranoid father. Instead, he trains his daughter to adopt an assumed identity if she’s ever separated from him, or to hide in a well-provisioned panic room if he should not return from one of his infrequent forays outside. However something clearly isn’t quite right with this weird family dynamic and Chloe is determined to find out what exactly lies outside the door her father is so frightened of.

I originally saw Freaks way back in February at Frightfest’s Glasgow event and since then the film has been percolating in my brain and given that it’s out now on DVD and Blu-ray it’s the perfect time to revisit the film and confirm my suspicions… If The Scribbler is the greatest superhero origin story committed to celluloid then Freaks is the greatest super VILLAIN story ever committed to celluloid!

But it doesn’t start out that way.

Freaks feels very much, at first, like a statement on the failing mental health system, the failing of society somewhat to look out for, and take care of, each other. This is a family in crisis. Seemingly with no one to help. But as the film unfolds we realise things are not what they same and the reality we’re being presented with is actually being created – literally – by Chloe’s father. A father who will do anything, ANYTHING, to keep his child safe. Safe from not only outside influences but from herself.

As her father often tells her “You’re not normal yet! You’ll die if you go outside!” He’s selling Chloe on a story that the world outside is broken. And to some extent it is. But not to the extent filmmakers Zach Lipovsky and Adam B. Stein sell the audience on at the beginning of this film. This is a world of super-powered people, people who are at war with the rest of mankind – predjudice is rife, hatred is rising. It’s a heavy-handed metaphor for how some feel American is right now, just replacing immigrants and minorities with super powered people. And like the current US administrations trend for locking up immigrants, the “mutants” of Freaks are locked up by the government too.

Only one of those locked up happens to be Chloe’s mother. A mother who manifest herself, thanks to Chloe’s powers, opening up the final chapter of Freaks to something of an action-adventure rescue mission as Chloe, her father AND her grandfather (Bruce Dern), who reveals himself to Chloe in the form of a creepy ice-cream man before telling her what she needs to know – she too has powers. But that reveal also means Chloe feels betrayed by her father, a father who knows what Chloe may be capable of… and is, actually, somewhat afraid of her powers coming to fruition. And with good reason.

The final denoument, as Chloe rescues her mother at the expense of both her father and grandfather reveals that mother or child, raging against the opression they have felt at the hands of the government, have decided to fight back. Thus the revelation that what we have witnessed in Freaks is the birth of two super villains, one stronger than the other and together both bad news for the population at large.

***** 5/5

Freaks is out now on DVD and Blu-ray from Universal Pictures UK. Buy it. You won’t be disappointed.


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