“FREAKS” is a Canadian-American science-fiction thriller written and directed by Zach Lipovski and Adam B. Stein. Emile Hirsch, Bruce Dern, Grace Park, Amanda Crew, and young Lexy Kolker fill out this cast in this wildly ambitious story. You have this young girl and her father living in a rundown house. She isn’t allowed to look out the windows let alone go outside, but for what reasons are unknown. One day she defies her father’s authority and sneaks out of the house to discover is bizarre world that is far beyond what she could’ve anticipated.
I tend to be the type of person that always tries to find appreciation in a movie when it attempts to do something different. Now I don’t want to stretch into spoilers here because I certainly think the less that is known about this one before watching the better. The overlying theme of this story is one that has shown some slight momentum recently in a few other movies. It does have some familiarities to the ramifications of a human being gifted with abilities like we have seen in films such as “Chronicle” or “Brightburn” more recently. Still though, this story goes its own direction to create a thought-provoking narrative that is able to overlap a handful of genres successfully.
This was an impressive film that had me completely engaged throughout even if some of the directions it went later in the closing act didn’t necessarily work for me as much. The film opens on this family of two, a father and young daughter. They are living in this dilapidated house but for reasons unknown. There was a subtle but constant level of doubt created by the story that makes the viewer question most of what they see which I found appealing. It wasn’t questioning in a critical manor, but more so from the angle of sheer interest and genuine curiosity. What is happening in the world that is making them have to live in this home? How long have they been there? Is this man truly the father of this child? Is he the one to fear in this story, and not the unknowns of the outside world?
Many questions were posed during the movie and as the script would fill in the answers to those, it would naturally pose more curiosities for the viewer to be engaged in. To me this resulted in a smaller film that is able to tell a grandiose story. I was invested in the story because it was layered with insight and foundation while still leaving enough for the imagination. However, being complemented by a cast of great performances certainly helped elevate the level of engagement while watching. Emile Hirsch, Bruce Dern and young Lexy Kolker were all fantastic. This was a movie heavily reliant on the performance of Kolker and putting the weight on a child actor is a daring move. Yet, despite that Kolker was phenomenal and everything this role needed.
This character-type was easily a level of difficulty that not all adult actors could pull off in terms of conveying the emotional layering. But Kolker felt confident and capable in this part and she easily was able to capture the growth in the character. The expressions and levels of intensity needed from Kolker were extremely demanding and with her stepping in like a seasoned pro, this story was able to thrive. You can connect with and care about her and it makes seeing where the story-line takes her all that more fascinating. Hirsch was excellent once again with another strong performance to add to his resume. He poured a ton of effort into the role and created a strong chemistry with Kolker to sell their troubled relationship with realism. Bruce Dern brought the movie a troubled character of another variety with his aged personality landing many intense moments as he routinely shows little hesitation when dealing with situations. Something that created an appealing clash with Hirsch’s character.
Visually this was an impressive movie for the supposed budget. The effects work is crisp and looks very polished. Some moments and sequences are more subtle than others and when strung together it complemented the subject-matter nicely. This film has the visual-appeal to match the mental intrigue and when paired with a great cast, it delivers an emotional filled adventure with a strong ominous vibe cast over it all. It has tension, unpredictability, dramatic undertones, with compelling sci-fi elements. And in this age of so many movies feeling derivative, this one is able to stand on its own. It does layer on a lot of story dynamics in the final act of the movie that could have been stretched out a bit. It also runs a little long in the second-act and despite possibly benefiting from some editing to tighten things up, it wasn’t a major hindrance, since no minutes could truly be considered wasted.