SCI-FI; 1hr 44min
STARRING: Emile Hirsch, Bruce Dern, Lexy Kolker
Creepingly slow to get going yet still creepy enough to hold its shadowy own, Freaks is a fable about the human fear of difference. Seven-year-old Chloe (Kolker) is its reclusive victim of circumstances, locked inside a down-at-heel suburban house by her distrustful father, Henry (Hirsch). Unluckily for father and daughter, Henry’s siege mentality is rooted in a grim reality, for he and Chloe are genetically enhanced beings, blessed/cursed with a mastery of mind control, invisibility and the handy knack of self-encasement in clear, protective bubbles. All of which barely keeps them ahead of the regular Homo sapiens who uncharitably want them dead.
Not that Chloe is about to go quietly. A dictionary of prospective disasters, she’s wilful, bossy and petulant, although in her defence, there’s a shit ton on her plate. Confusingly blessed/cursed with apparitions of her supposedly deceased mother (Amanda Crew), she’s a prisoner of dual realities, both of them awful. And as Freakish ice-cream man Mr Snowcone (Dern) tersely takes it upon himself to inform her, “Hiding is out.”
The weirdness comes into its own when the Freaks work their fx wiles, stalling somewhat when they break ranks to strategise, bitch and bicker. Which they admittedly have every right to do, given their horrible circumstances, but which they could easily stand to do less. And yet! That this effects-sprinkled mash-up has the feel of a shoestring crusade can’t help but be endearing. You barrack for the outliers in writer-directors Adam Stein and Zach Lipovsky’s first feature because so much is set against them—and for persecuted minorities, isn’t that always the way?