Freaks is one of those films you can almost hear the pitch for, as it is a clear hybrid of two successfully used formulas from recent past. The initial approach may be somewhat original, but this is essentially just a variation on the same mutant-human themes that have been at the center of countless superhero movies and TV series in the past few decades. Add to this trope a child character forced to spend their entire life inside a single home, and it is quite clear that Freaks was intended to be Room meets X-Men. At times this combination is compelling, while too much of the film is devoted to the protagonists bickering and in-fighting about what to do, and far too little time following through on those conversations.
The film is told through the perspective of a young girl named Chloe (Lexy Kolker), and we enter into the narrative without context of the world. Slowly through the discoveries of Chloe, we are given details about the futuristic society in which they live. Prior to that, we are only exposed to what Chloe is exposed to, and that is limited to a dilapidated home she shares with her father (Emile Hirsch). We are also tied to a child-like logic, and an unfortunate amount of time is spent dwelling on ice cream rather than investigating questions the more mature viewers are bound to have. This perspective also often makes her father look erratic and delusional, despite rational explanations. It is almost as if the disorienting style from Room is needed to retain some mystery, though it hardly works due to the familiarity with (and oversaturation of) mutant plots.
It isn’t until Chloe has a visit from a mysterious ice cream man (played by Bruce Dern) that the audience is given some of the expected answers to the questions raised. His identity is also fairly predictable, despite attempts to keep it a mystery for a bit. The trusting nature Chloe is countered by a paranoia in the viewer, enhanced by the ambiguous beginning and stylistic embellishments. The film seems intent to unsettle, although the purpose for this is never entirely clear, and this can result in viewers feeling cheated. The whole point of the film seems to be the mere presentation of the film, but this can often feel like a snake eating its own tail. There is nothing wrong with a film being surface-level entertainment, but it should be a bit more enjoyable than this.
The Blu-ray release of Freaks comes with a DVD copy, as well as a decent number of extras on the discs. The film itself doesn’t use the best CGI due to obvious budgetary constraints, but they are improved slightly in high definition. And as much time as the characters spend yelling at each other, it is often a relief to have action of any kind. The special features include a commentary track with co-directors Zach Lipovsky and Adam B. Stein, as well as a behind-the-scenes featurette.
Entertainment Value: 6.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 6/10
Historical Significance: 3/10
Special Features: 5/10