Freaks (2018) is a North American science fiction thriller written and directed by Zach Lipovsky and Adam B. Stein. The main characters of the film are Chloe aka Eleanor Reed (Lexy Kolker), Chloe’s Dad, Henry Lewis (Emile Hirsch), Mr. Snowcone (Bruce Dern), Mary (Amanda Crew), and Agent Ray (Grace Park).
A sweet and delightful seven-year-old girl escapes her deranged and disturbed father’s clutches who has filled her mind with paranoia and fear and hops a ride with Mr. Snowcone, the ice cream man, who convinces her to take a ride. Until she flees the house, Chloe has never been outside her house. Her father has convinced her that it isn’t safe and she would be in mortal danger if she did. She would be killed. There is something deeply troubling and disturbing about the father/daughter relationship, and Henry’s parenting skills. Meanwhile, Mr. Snowcone has secretly left Chloe little gifts in an attempt to lure her away. It’s a film where paranoia meets reality seen through the eyes of a child and where an altered reality is juxtaposed with the real. Is the father really paranoid? What is his motivation to isolate Chloe from the outside world? What about Mr. Snowcone? Is Mr. Snowcone really a good Samaritan? Is he really an ice cream man? Why is he so interested in Chloe? How does he know her name? Is he a pedophile? Once out of the house and in Mr. Snowcone’s ice cream truck, Chloe’s journey begins and boy, is she in for an adventure. Is she really at risk? Why does Chloe disobey her father? The film sets up many intriguing questions whose answers are revealed in the narrative of the film which grows in complexity and madness.
Besides being a science fiction thriller, it’s really a coming of age film for a special, precocious little girl who has a mind of her with incredible powers who seeks a normal life and a mommy. She has many new experiences on her own without her father’s interference and becomes her own little person.
A good film is not without its villains and in Freaks there are several. The film is situated within a post-modern, out of kilter world, where freaks/the abnormals have disturbed the social order. The film shocks and there are many disturbing scenes. The disturbing behavior of Chloe’s Dad, Mr. Snowcone, the police, Agent Ray, and Chloe herself run as a motif throughout the film stitching it into a cohesive structure.
The directors have woven together many visual elements to create a science fiction thriller that will leave you in suspense as more of Chloe’s backstory and that of the main characters are revealed. The juxtaposition of the real with an altered reality is compelling and adds to the dramatic tension of the film. If you want to find out what happens to Chloe, then, well, you’ve got to see the film which is engaging and will hold your attention.
The directors juxtapose Chloe’s story against the simmering tensions amongst the characters which fuel the dramatic tension in the film. Hirsch shines as the disturbed and deranged father with a heart of gold who will do anything to protect his daughter. Dern is marvelous to watch as Mr. Snowcone who is equally aggressive and abusive towards Chloe who intentions are to use her as a pawn to rescue his own daughter who is being held captive in an underground camp deep within the bowels of a mountain. Kolker (Chloe), Hirsch and Dern have chemistry and are interesting to watch as they play off each other, together or separately. The piece de la resistance is Kolker who is phenomenal in her role as the precocious seven-year old coming into her own.
The film resonated with me on a personal level posing important philosophical and existential questions such as the importance of minority rights and diversity. It shines a light on the pathology of a dominant society which will go to extraordinary lengths to rid itself of difference evoking the horrors of Nazi Germany or perhaps, the policies of Trump America. It’s an intriguing film shining a light on the pathology of ideological thought that fails to consider humanity in all its diversity. It was a compelling film to watch and, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at an ice cream truck in the same way again. Do see it for you won’t be disappointed.
Well Go USA releases Freaks on Friday, September 13, 2019
[Review by Stefan Chiarantano]