FREAKS, which premiered last year at the Toronto International Film Festival features an impressive low budget dystopian apocalyptic scenario that though runs into familiar territory. Still, it has a unique feel to it. The film looks good in its production values. Writer/directors Adam Stein and Zach Lipovsky craft a creepy tale that keeps the audience guessing what is happening especially in the first half.
Everyone loves a good thriller, especially when one knows literally nothing about the plot. FREAKS is that thriller provided you have not read anything about it.
The film opens on the insides of a dilapidated house where a man (Emile Hirsch) and a daughter (Lexy Kolker) reside away from anyone else. This immediately brings the recent dystopian father and daughter drama LIGHT OF MY LIFE which Casey Affleck starred and directed where the father and daughter live on their own away from strangers after some plaque has destroyed most of the females in the world. But nothing is initially stated at the starting of FREAKS except of what one hears from the father.
Chloe’s father (Hirsch) prevents her from leaving their dilapidated house or from even looking outside their board-up windows. It is not clear if there are actual dangers outside, as “Dad” believes, or if there is something psychologically wrong with him. This is where the film works really well. There is an image on the television with the words: “Drone targets house in Seattle”. What does this all mean and why is dad warning Chloe of evil men outside.
It is right after the father returns from getting supplies that he gets wounded and passes out. Chloe escapes through the front door to meet a strange Mr. Snowcone (Bruce Dern) who entices her with a chocolate ice-cream cone.
When the elderly Mr. Snowcone takes Chloe to the park, he scare hers by pushing her too high on the swing. When a cop arrives, it turns out that she can make the cop go away by her sheer will. Nothing is what it seems and the film takes a brilliantly chilling turn.
At this point, one can hope that the film gets better as the script also written by the two directors have put in many odd set pieces in the first 30 minutes that need to be explained. For one, Chloe is locked up in the closet where she meets her apparent sister. The people outside the house seem to know Chloe’s name and Chloe’s mother, though the audience have no knowledge where or who Chloe mother is. The neighbour appears to resemble the mother too.
It is right at the half way mark that everything is explained. The film turns into action mode and this is where the film turns less interesting once the mystery is revealed.
To the directors’ credit, they still keep a few surprises of the story for the second half, which though not as absorbing as the first half still makes not a bad sci-fi thriller.