- Written and directed by: Zach Lipovsky and Adam B. Stein
- Starring: Emile Hirsch, Bruce Dern and Lexy Kolker
- Classification: R; 104 minutes
Writers-directors-producers Zach Lipovsky and Adam B. Stein’s latest film, Freaks, is one of several releases in the past decade that toys with the truth of its source of violence. Here, a seven-year-old girl named Chloe (Lexy Kolker) has been kept locked inside her house for years by her seemingly paranoid and overprotective father (Emile Hirsch). The threat of the outside world is omnipresent in as much as her father underscores it at every moment, offering his daughter warnings and advice that work deliberately in tandem with the film’s drive to destabilize our sense of what in fact is a real threat and what is not.
The thing about this method is that its narrative payoff needs to be worth the efforts of fully questioning what we think we know for a sustained amount of time. In Freaks, sadly, this is not the case. Without spoiling the film for new viewers, the twist here in regard to what is and what isn’t real comes somewhat earlier than it should, in as much as the story that follows its reveal can’t quite carry itself without its previous narrative devices. Characters and story lines are introduced within this structure of questioning and then suddenly solidified in their truth without much development outside of their new status of realness.
In many cases, the movie tries to play catch up with itself in this regard, speeding along semi-recklessly with a clearly deep desire to bask in its reveals. The genre-bending nature of Freaks, which twists and turns under the expectations of a psychological thriller only to land in a vague science-fiction scenario, seems less thought out than its ability to set its introductory scenes of uncertainty. This is clearly a film that favours concept over narrative expansion, and it suffers for this.
Freaks is an interesting entry into the far-too-small field of contemporary Canadian genre filmmaking – a mystery box of a film which speaks to the differences between us in its project of pitting outside against inside and vice versa. However, it lacks a depth in screenwriting and storytelling that is wholly needed to sustain its run-time and, most glaringly, its characters. Likewise, the movie seems restrained by its budget, which is unfortunate because the imagination it shows its promising. It’s only in materially realizing itself where it falls short.
Freaks opens Sept. 13