[REVIEW] Freaks (2018)
**Freaks is currently playing in theatres across the nation - distributed by Well Go USA Entertainment**
Did someone just say a Canadian science fiction film with an appearance by Bruce Dern? It’s certainly a surprise that Zach Lipovsky and Adam Stein’s Freaks didn’t pick up more traction outside of Canada after its initial premiers at TIFF last year (it was named as one of TIFF's Canada Top Ten in 2018). Luckily, the film is getting a wide release thanks to Well GO USA and will hopefully find its fan base once it hits theatres.
Freaks starts off by introducing audiences to Chloe (Lexy Kolker), a 7 year-old girl who is confined at home by her protective father (Emile Hirsch). Although the initial reasons for the confinement are a bit of a mystery, we later learn that Chloe has supernatural gifts – with her collective kind being known as ‘freaks’ – which the rest of the world does not necessarily accept with kindness. As the film unfolds, we learn about an agency that was seemingly created to eliminate these extraordinary individuals (Grace Park plays one of the agents), with Bruce Dern showing up to play a character that drives an ice cream truck and calls himself Mr. Snowcone. Hopefully this fact alone piques your interest enough to watch the film.
As a science fiction film, Freaks isn’t completely groundbreaking and has a pretty typical mutant fearing storyline. Having a child with superpowers serve as the centerpiece of the story is also not entirely original, as we’ve see that before too (most recently, in Logan and to a lesser degree, Stranger Things). But where the film is perhaps most noteworthy is with its focus on a father daughter relationship as the basis for the narrative. One could argue that this also happens in the two aforementioned films, but certainly not to this degree. The centrality of this strong relationship creates an emotional anchor for the film, and takes it beyond a straightforward science fiction story.
I do take a bit of an issue with the film’s pacing, as the grander science fiction-esque elements take some time to be fully introduced. Once revealed, there’s a lot of rich content, and the film would have benefited from a more rapid descent into these meatier plot points. From an acting standpoint, Kolker shines as Chloe and definitely has a bright future ahead of her. Hirsch has proven himself to be a highly dependable actor in Hollywood, and as expected, throws in a pretty decent performance. With Bruce Dern, any screen time of him in any film is always a gift, and this is no exception.
By the time the credits roll, despite some notable imperfections, Freaks is a great cinematic experience that is equal parts entertaining and thoughtful. Having Bruce Dern show up is just an added bonus that everyone should happily accept.