‘Freaks’: superheroes without costumes in a nice piece of science fiction brimming with ideas and personality
For much of his footage, ‘Freaks’ (What can you see in Filmin) plays bewilderment, and the truth is that nothing goes wrong. Sometimes is a satire of suburban life, with its suburbs, its perfect families and its ice cream trucks (In those moments it remembers the most memorable moments of that tremendous ‘Psychonauts’). Sometimes it feels like the start of a new Marvel-style mutant franchise. Sometimes a claustrophobic psychological horror movie.
Actually, ‘Freaks’ is a bit of all of that, and the risk it takes of not explaining almost anything until its final stretch is settled with an enigmatic and fun movie, capable of turning over and over again around the fragmented psyche of its little protagonist without letting interest wane. It is a proposal that draws from superhero cinema, indie horror and even from films of children with mental powers in the style of Stephen King of the eighties, in an amalgam in which the best thing is their own modesty.
At the beginning of the film we meet a girl, Chloe (great Lexy Kolker, the engine of the whole film) who lives with her father (Emile Hirsch) in a house half in ruins, closer to one of those terrifying dream spaces of a ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ than a conventional home. The father lives by and for Chloe to stay indoors, and in fact, the girl has never stepped outside, since she is convinced that if she does, there are people outside who will try to kill her.
But why? Is everything your father tells Chloe true? Mood swings and contradictions between their obvious lies are becoming more frequent, and Chloe begins to suspect that there are secrets in the locked rooms of the house. What’s more, the girl’s occasional escapades lead her to form an unsettling friendship with someone who is not who she claims to be, an ice cream man (Bruce Dern) who also seems to know more than he tells you. Soon, the house turns into a prison and it is unclear if the threat is more present inside than outside.
Prisoner for her sake
The directors and scriptwriters of the film, Zach Lipovsky and Adam B. Stein, experienced in shorts and numerous products for television (especially for Disney, with tv-movies such as the live-action version of ‘Kim Possible’) They take the healthy and original option of having the viewer in absolute darkness (and the characters) for two-thirds of the movie. And in the final third, an avalanche of secrets revealed but without falling into over-explanation, justifying everything with great action sequences whose tension has been amassed throughout the film.
This tension comes from the girl’s need for answers, but also from the ambiguity of her situation. Is your father who he says he is, why so many rooms closed? There is in that mystery something of ‘Bluebeard’, the legendary French tale that It makes us distrust people who prevent their loved ones from entering depending on which rooms. And that ice cream man? If he is not a child killer, he has little to do, but he seems to know details about the unique powers that Chloe is beginning to manifest.
But … what is all this superheroic about? Those who know the most obvious meanings of the Marvel mutant stories will know what we mean: people persecuted for being different, government associations in perpetual surveillance (the film has very attractive dystopian streaks, through details such as propaganda in the streets or the rigid forces of order), omnipotence out of control … All this without costumes or bombastic names, of course, but the idea is there well clear.
‘Freaks’ is well aware of its limitations (the power of mind control, so appropriately cheap to film), but She expounds her ideas so simply and effectively that it is impossible not to view her with sympathy. Good ideas trump development (the bleeding eyes, the conversation in the restaurant, the time that passes at different speeds, the burdensome neighbors), and in the end there are questions to be answered, but it does not matter. This could be the beginning of a stupendous saga of outcasts with powers.