A chintzy yet well-intentioned slab of socially conscious science-fiction, Zach Lipovsky and Adam B. Stein’s “Freaks” is a familiar tale of super-powered outcasts who are forced to hide their gifts from the rest of humanity, but the appeal of this derivative slop is all in the telling. The fun here — and there is some decent fun to be had — has nothing to do with the story, and everything to do with how patiently the filmmakers let us in on its secrets. In other words, “Freaks” is undercooked red meat for “Westworld” superfans, Reddit sleuths, and anyone else who tends to engage with genre entertainment as though it were a puzzle for them to solve.
For others, however, this low-budget “X-Men” clone may feel more like an exasperating 104-minute audition for whatever franchise superhero fare its makers are clearly hoping to be hired for next.
Nested inside a mess of broad metaphors that aren’t worth the time it takes to untangle them, “Freaks” — at heart — is a coming-of-age saga that hinges on an intriguing conceit. The film begins inside of a dilapidated house; we don’t know where, and we don’t know when. The windows are boarded shut, there are maybe a dozen locks on the front door, and the rooms inside are swamped with the kind of acrid, yellow air that infers some kind of nuclear apocalypse.
Read More:‘A Million Little Pieces’ Review: James Frey’s Scandalous Book Is Now a Dull Tale of Addiction Recovery — TIFF
This musty wooden coffin is home to seven-year-old Chloe (a sweet but steely-eyed Lexy Kolker) and her nameless Dad (a bearded and hyper-focused Emile Hirsch, indistinguishable from a younger Jack Black). Every oblique word that’s shared between them is meant to intrigue us about the mystery of the world outside that bolted door. “Is she really gonna love me?” Chloe asks. “That’s why we’re paying her,” Dad responds. And then he starts quizzing his daughter about the details of a fake identity they’ve invented for her, insisting that even the tiniest misstep or hesitation could result in her violent death. “You need to lie to be normal,” he says. “I can’t wait to be normal,” she replies. And then the little girl runs upstairs to hug a pillow …read more