Low-budget veneer is film's main attraction

Freaks' teasing distances audience

Lexy Kolker in Freaks M Pictures

One of people's biggest fears is to be deemed an outcast, or freak. And the theme about suffering from being different, hiding away from authority, or discovering hidden special powers is the sort of storyline that's been told countless times from the Marvel universe, superheroes and monsters movies, where the line between good and bad is hazy grey.

  • Freaks
  • Starring Emile Hirsch, Bruce
  • Dern, Grace Park
  • Directed by Zach Lipovsky, Adam B. Stein

The filmmaking duo Zach Lipovsky and Adam B. Stein bring this familiar tale to their latest sci-fi supernatural thriller Freaks. The film is a thought-provoking paranoia thriller set in an apocalyptic future, borrowing everything from dystopian dramas to Stephen King horror films and X-Men movies.

The film plays on our deepest fears of being shunned by society. These outcasts with supernatural powers are forced to hide their gifts from the world. Freaks stars Emile Hirsch as a disturbed father, who's desperate to keep his seven-year-old daughter Chloe (Lexy Kolker) away from the outside world for mysterious reasons. She is told that the world outside is too dangerous, and could be killed instantly if she steps outside the door. But after many years staying indoors, Chloe develops her own thoughts and doubts about her father. She's determined to find out what's really going on, what happened to her mother, and what does her dad not want her to know. And as Chloe begins to discover something odd about herself, she meets a mysterious old man (Bruce Dern) who talks Chloe into escaping her house and joining him on a quest for freedom, and bloody revenge.

Freaks is obviously a low-budget film, which is quite apparent during its 135 minutes running time. Without the CGI and special effects distractions, the cinematography is quite impressive, especially with the generous use of a fisheye lens effect that adds to the suspense as the camera pans across a room, slowly revealing potential threats from all angles. The movie also makes good use of the small space in which most of the film was shot.

The film is a slow burn storywise, starting very slow and taking a long time before something actually happens. Certain confusing clues throughout the movie can really test your patience.

The filmmakers tease the audience as to who the mysterious old man is and the nature of the father-daughter relationship, which grows tiresome. And unfortunately, once the story reveals itself, you can't help but feel dissatisfied, knowing that you've seen this twisting tale many times before.

We have seen Hirsch recently in the role of celebrity hairdresser Jay Sebring in Tarantino's Once Upon A Time ... In Hollywood, and Hirsch does a terrific job here as the overbearing dad whose sanity may be hanging by a thread. Child star Kolker also delivers an impressive performance as an innocent kid with deadly power. But her character and look are derivative of the telekinetic child portrayed by Drew Barrymore in Stephen King's 1984 Firestarter.

Freaks keeps you interested, but it never is completely coherent. Plot points are haphazardly strewn about to keep the narrative moving. The film doesn't earn many points for originality, but its low budget veneer is a draw. I score it six out of 10.

If you're in the mood to watch a supernatural film with a superhero kind of theme, then this will be one you'll want to watch just for the sake of entertainment.