Freaks is the rare movie where a character outruns an explosion and it actually makes sense

Chris Knight: The filmmakers do a great job of world-building, contrasting a dim, dingy dwelling with the almost painfully bright cityscape outside her door

Emile Hirsch and Lexy Kolker in Freaks. Taro PR

Share Adjust Comment Print

Fox’s X-Men franchise has wrapped up – well, more or less; next year’s on-again, off-again chapter The New Mutants seems to be on again. But that doesn’t mean the larger cinematic universe is free of abnormal individuals with special powers.

In this film from co-writers and directors Zach Lipovsky and Adam B. Stein, they go by the name Freaks. And like the once and (possibly) future X-Men, they have a bewildering variety of powers including time dilation, invisibility, extra-sensory perception and mind control, all cleverly put to use in this well-paced thriller. (This is the rare movie where a character outruns an explosion and it actually makes sense.)

They also have a tell; use of their powers results in blood dripping from their tear ducts, like that villain in the Bond film. And so U.S. government agents carry little UV flashlights to check for residue on people’s cheeks. It’s not foolproof, but they’re trying.

Central to the story is Chloe, aged 7, living with her dad (Emile Hirsch) in a filthy, ramshackle house with boarded-up windows. When we first meet them, Dad is trying to coach his daughter on how to stay hidden and safe, though whether for her benefit or his or someone else’s isn’t quite clear.

A lot isn’t clear in the early going – like what’s with the super-friendly mom from across the street, and why is Bruce Dern always outside the house, selling ice cream from a truck that might as well say “… and child abductions” on the side? But trust in the film and all will eventually become clear.

Hirsch plays a believably frantic father in the film, although despite the 15-year age gap I kept mistaking him for Jack Black. In any case, it’s eight-year-old (at time of shooting) Lexy Kolker who carries the movie – she has the same questions as I did, plus she’s not sure if the visions she’s having of her mother are a premonition, a memory or maybe a ghost. In any case, it’s driving her crazy not knowing what’s going on.

The filmmakers do a great job of world-building, contrasting Chloe’s dim, dingy dwelling with the almost painfully bright cityscape outside her door. In spite of Dad’s warning, things don’t look all that dangerous outside, at least in the early going.

But that’s the thing about mutants; as a billboard within the film proclaims, “They look just like us.” Similarly, this made-in-Canada movie may look at first like any number of generic sci-fi thrillers. But scratch the surface, and watch as it proves itself something greater.