Freaks (2018) review

I first saw Freaks at FrightFest in Glasgow in 2019, and I loved it. It has recently been added to Netflix, so thought it a good time to write a review. However, this is definitely a movie that should be watched knowing as little as possible beforehand, so that makes reviewing it a little difficult without spoiling it!

Freaks is a (horror-adjacent?) dark sci-fi that takes its time to reveal what the true nature of the world, and also the movie itself, is. It begins in a dingy, dismal, dirty house occupied by a father (only known as Dad, played by Emile Hirsch) and his young daughter (Chloe, played by Lexy Kolker). Dad is paranoid about them being exposed to the outside world, and we are not sure at this stage why or even if this is a fear that is warranted. The outside is glimpsed through the covered-up windows, and is shown as bright, sunny and inviting in direct contrast to the interior of the house. This proves difficult for Chloe to resist, especially when an ice-cream truck (driven by the incredible Bruce Dern) is parked outside, and from this temptation the isolation of Dad and Chloe begins to unravel.

That’s all I will say about the plot. There’s a lot to love about this movie – the pacing, the cinematography and the performances all combine to quickly make you feel comfortable knowing that you are in safe hands. This is a genre-movie, but it’s definitely not a piece of throwaway nonsense (nothing wrong with throwaway nonsense mind you!) and there are some deeper themes and a prescient ‘othering’ allegory bubbling away under the surface.

I have seen this twice now, and the second time around I could look a bit closer at the way in which this movie is structured, and how it gives little clues along the way as to what is really going on before it reveals itself. I think that the writing and direction by Zach LipovskyAdam B. Stein is very strong, and they deliver an absorbing and entertaining movie within a relatively small budget.

I have struggled a bit with the scoring of this movie – I absolutely loved it, it’s not a 10/10 film though, and there are a couple of plot niggles that just prevent me from scoring this as a 9. So I have plumped for an 8 on the Skelpometer, but I would urge anyone with even just a passing interest in sci-fi / horror to give this a watch.

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