Review: Emile Hirsch, Bruce Dern elevate sci-fi horror flick ‘Freaks’


If it’s possible to enjoy a film without being all that sure what’s going on, then the ambitious sci-fi/horror escapade “Freaks” (no, not a remake of the 1932 cult classic) may satisfy genre fans down for some eerie, B-movie thrills.

Writer-directors Zach Lipovsky and Adam Stein show promise as visual, if not yet narrative craftsmen, with this often derivative tale of a dystopian world in which “abnormals” or “freaks” have taken on a special array of mysterious traits and superpowers following some barely explained cataclysm.

Needless to say, the “normals” (read: the government) want these “others” destroyed which, despite federal agents’ ability to target them with “hellfire,” is easier said than done. (No one will accuse the film of thematic subtlety).


At the epicenter is an unhinged, hyper-protective widower (Emile Hirsch) who keeps his resourceful 7-year-old daughter, Chloe (Lexy Kolker), locked up in their ramshackle home and away from perceived danger. But when Chloe is lured outside by an ice cream truck driver (Bruce Dern) promising to help her find her supposedly dead mom (Amanda Crew), supernaturally tinged mayhem, flares of violence, familial unraveling and more questions than answers ensue. It’s watchable and intriguing stuff, yet also silly and inconsistent.

Committed turns by Hirsch and Crew, young Kolker (whose lungs get quite the workout) and a welcomely vital Dern elevate the proceedings.


Rated: R, for violence and some language

Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Playing: Starts Sept. 13, in general release