You don’t so much watch Freaks as you do discover it. As the writers and directors of this terrific flick, Zach Lipovsky (co-producer of Afflicted) and Adam Stein do a good job building anticipation in their sci-fi/thriller. Each scene contains clues, and it’s up to the audience to piece the film’s premise together up until the somewhat typical finale.
I’ve seen this technique of puzzle-solving storytelling act as a crutch for filmmakers – a diversion while they stall and figure out one specific narrative for their film to follow. Lipovsky and Stein, however, understand that the trick to ambiguity is to include several different threads, and to spare no characters.
The main story follows Chloe (Lexy Kolker), a sheltered kid cooped up by her Dad (Emile Hirsch). Right away, the mystery starts. What’s going on outside? Do we trust Hirsch? Is he even her father? There’s an ice cream truck stationed outside Chloe’s house, driven by a man referred to as Mr. Snowcone (Bruce Dern). What’s his story? Dad’s awfully protective of Chloe, but what makes even the slightest glimpse from Mr. Snowcone such a threat?
Freaks starts within the confines of Chloe’s derelict home. It is literally boarded off from the world. But as Chloe’s curiosity grows, she reveals more about who she really is; including her intuitive potential. Think of a more empathetic version of Brightburn, or a dystopian Beasts of the Southern Wild with a different sense of maturity.
To describe the intricate plot of Freaks would be doing the film a disservice, but to allude to its fantastical nature will hopefully pique the interest of outsiders. Freaks is a film best viewed cold. The film puts a new spin on the coming-of-age formula that still feels identifiable and popular. Kolker, given the daunting task of carrying the film, is a natural talent, and she holds her own alongside the adult cast (who all do a good job as well).
Freaks only becomes conventional when it’s tying up its loose ends. It’s fairly noticeable because the film, up until this point, has been riding its own original wave and because the third act is longer than it really should be (sci-fi cinephiles may be reminded of 2016’s 10 Cloverfield Lane during this stretch). However, the final failsafe choices don’t take away from how entertaining Freaks is.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie