GIFF 2019 – Review: FREAKS Is An Intriguing Indie Superhero Horror Film

freaks door

Freaks is a new sci-fi thriller written and directed by Zach Lipovsky and Adam B. Stein. The film tells the story of a young girl who, sheltered from the hostile outside world by her father, ventures out to discover that she has a special and dangerous gift. It debuted at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival and played at the 2019 Gasparilla International Film Festival.

The story of someone who is repressed wanting to break free is nothing new. However, this movie handles that arc in a way that is interesting, unique, and loads of fun to watch. Some of the beats are predictable, but towards the end of the film, the plot becomes crazier and crazier to where you just can’t expect what is going to come next or you won’t care.

One of the best parts of the movie is the world which it builds. There is a ton of mythology heading into the story, and the level of detail is impressive, especially for an independent film. You can very obviously tell what the movie is trying to say, but it works nonetheless. There is plenty of room in the world for there to be sequels, and if this film becomes a cult hit like it should, hopefully that will happen.

Another thing that the movie does quite well is character development. The protagonist’s father in the film is an extremely well-written character with a surprising amount of emotional complexity. He is both likable and sympathetic because of his relationship with his daughter. Some of the developments that come in the latter parts of the movie seem somewhat forced, but by that time, we are already invested in his story.

freaks outside

The film is definitely very good at building suspense throughout. The beginning of the movie is eerie and creepy until you figure out what is happening. At that point, the film becomes more of an action-thriller with tons of excitement. The movie is a little slow as it is introducing us to the characters and the world, but it quickly gets to a point where you will never be bored.

The actors all do a very good job in their roles too. Emile Hirsch, who is notoriously hit-or-miss with his choices and performances, actually gives a career best performance in this film. He actually is one of the movie’s highlights, especially towards the end of the film. Bruce Dern is wonderful as a creepy ice cream man, a role which seemed tailor-built for him. Child actress Lexy Kolker is also great in her role.

The biggest weaknesses of the movie are in its execution, but that can be expected of a low-budget film as ambitious as this. Some of the visual effects, particularly during the action sequences in the finale of the movie, aren’t particularly impressive. However, the filmmakers did know how to make use of a small set, with the opening of the film being extremely effective.

Overall, Freaks was a relatively strong movie. It definitely isn’t perfect, but it has some interesting ideas, a cool premise, and great performances by the three lead actors. It doesn’t yet have a release date, but it does have distribution, so hopefully you’ll get to see it soon!

Freaks played at the 2019 Gasparilla International Film Festival.

By Sean Boelman

Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.

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