Director: Adam Stein and Zach Lipovsky
Writer: Zach Lipovsky and Adam Stein
Starring: Lexy Kolker, Emile Hirsch, Bruce Dern, Grace Park, Amanda Crew
I was surprised by how much Freaks stuck with me after my initial watch. I think what lingered the most was how slowly and carefully the movie took to unfold what it actually was. This meant I had to invest in the characters instead of the concept. Every new scene opened up the possibilities of what Freaks could be: science fiction, horror, action, a mystery, a superhero film. It turned out to be a little bit of everything.
Like I said in my initial review, I think that Freaks would have a wide appeal among genre fans, so I’m happy to see it get a physical release, and I hope people pick it up.
If you want to avoid my original review, which goes into a little more detail, the basic setup is simple. A father and daughter, played by Emile Hirsch and Lexy Kolker respectively, are holed up in a house. Windows are blocked out, and the father seems to be giving the daughter lessons to survive in a hostile outside world. But any glimpses we see of the outside seem normal, except maybe the ice cream man, who may be dangerous or may be able to tell the daughter exactly who and what she is.
The strengths of Freaks are its subtle world-building—it doesn’t get bogged down in tedious minutiae like similar films—and the character work. Hirsch is very believable as a father who feels like he has to be an asshole for his kid’s sake, and Kolker impressed me. Child actors can be hit or miss, but she’s the linchpin of the entire film.
The transfer to the Blu-ray looks fantastic. A lot of the film takes place in a dark, boarded up house, so there’s always a possibility of the image looking muddy. Still, the impressive cinematography by Stirling Bancroft really pops. If anything about the premise intrigues you, then I definitely recommend picking up a physical copy. I’ve seen it twice now, and I can guarantee I’ll continue to revisit it in the future.
The special features on this release are fairly standard and are generally the kind of special features I want on a Blu-ray. A director’s commentary, a behind-the-scenes featurette, and some trailers. Nothing excessive, but I rarely dive much deeper into the features, even on special edition discs (Sorry, Criterion).
Includes the teaser and the trailer for Freaks, as well as previews for the films The Divine Fury, First Love, and Abigail.
Obviously, watch the movie before you listen to the commentary. That’s something that always bugs me about commentaries when they’re worried about spoiling the film for people who are watching it. Anyone who watches a movie for the first time ever with the commentary playing is a damn psychopath!
Anyway, co-writers and co-directors Adam Stein and Zack Lipovsky are very fun to listen to. They point out neat stuff that I missed the first time (like the frozen birds in the sky in one of the first shots, the low whale sounds that are just bird and cricket sounds slowed down, etc.) and general insight into the production process. Stein and Lipovsky’s enthusiasm for their passion project is infectious.
There’s not any dead air, as far as I remember. They never make the common commentary faux pas of just pointing out the scene that’s happening. There’s always an interesting anecdote or detail about the process of filming Freaks. It’s a very good companion piece with the behind-the-scenes feature.
-Behind the Scenes
These kinds of behind-the-scenes featurettes have always been my favorite. When it comes to films, it’s just fun to see how the sausage is made. There’s plenty of footage of them shooting or rehearsing scenes. There are some talking head interviews with the actors talking about the philosophy of their characters and the general themes of the film itself.
It’s great to see the way everybody in the cast and crew rallies together to pull off an indie film like this. Bruce Dern puts it best when he says, “Studios will not tackle this [type of film] anymore. I mean, they are doing this movie for a price that could get you two days of shooting on a big movie.” It’s a short featurette that doesn’t go into too much detail. It’s worth watching to understand that vibe of actually making a film outside of the churning machinery of a big studio production.
Freaks is available on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital right now.