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Windy City Horrorama ‘19 Review: In “FREAKS” Paranoia doesn’t mean you’re crazy if The Threat Is Real

Monday, April 29, 2019 | Review


Starring Emile Hirsch, Bruce Dern, and Lexy Kolker
Written and Directed by Zach Lipovsky and Adam B. Stein
Well Go USA Entertainment

FREAKS does not sit neatly in any one genre. Though that sentiment can apply to so many films, this one in particular goes out of its way to evade any typical expectations or conventions of what expectations are brought into any film’s viewing. FREAKS is ambitious and confident, but this sometimes feels like it is trying to accomplish too much within a single film.

In the beginning, Chloe and her father (Lexy Kolker and Emile Hirsch) are living in fear of anything outside the walls of their home. Chloe is incredibly intelligent and adjusted for her age, but still a kid at heart, and her dad must talk her through what happens if she gets outside or is taken by the “bad” people. Lie after lie, she can rattle off these false facts her father has had her commit to memory. He leaves the house occasionally for food and supplies, but Chloe has been forbidden from leaving or even peeking outside of their duct taped curtains. As FREAKS goes along the truth of their family is revealed, as well as the disturbing truth of the world beyond their front door.

Both Kolker and Hirsch are incredible in their performances as a tight and tiny family unit. There is a lot of love between the two of them, but also a lot of toxic thinking and asking Chloe to lie and believe in her father’s crazy theories. But is he paranoid if he’s right?

As the rebellious kid inside Chloe fights to get out in the open and out of the house, FREAKS truly begins to flex its muscles in terms of world creation and action. There is far more going on than Chloe has been lead to believe, and as the story unfolds to her we also learn why her father is the way he is.

All of this is quite fascinating, however, as FREAKS is laying it all out it is a bit much to digest and the film’s intentions get spread thin. Between the characters, the world, the plot, every element of FREAKS is innovative and fascinating but we are never given enough time to truly soak in all of the details and ramifications of these elements. Had some of these admittedly great ideas been culled from the final cut, it might have been easier to ingest all of the aspects of the film.

Visually stunning and emotionally honest, FREAKS is a fascinating take on paranoia and what makes people special, but its bloat makes it start to veer into being too much of a good thing.

Deirdre is a Chicago-based film critic and life-long horror fan. In addition to writing for RUE MORGUE, she also contributes to C-Ville Weekly,, and belongs to the Chicago Film Critics Association. She's got two black cats and wrote her Master's thesis on George Romero.