FREAKS,   US, 2018. Starring Emile Hirsch, Bruce Dern, Grace Park, Amanda Crew, Lexy Kolker, Ava Telek, Michelle Harrison, Matty Finochio, Aleks Paunovic. Directed by Zach LIpovsky, Adam B. Stein. 105 minutes.  Rated MA (Strong supernatural themes and violence).

An unexpectedly striking film.

Audiences wanting to see a film which is complex in its narrative, not always immediately explaining who the characters were and what is going on, continued twists, aspects of science-fiction, reality and fantasy - this is it. And, as audiences watch, they accept the narrative, ready to go with all the twists, interested in and probably enjoying the mystery of the plot.

The title indicates that within society there are some people who are different, and here they are called both freaks and “Abnormal”. One of the immediate difficulties for our comprehending who the freaks are and why they are considered abnormal is that we see little, indeed very little, of the ordinary world and ordinary human beings. In fact, most of the action of this film takes place within a house, somewhat derelict looking, those living there seeming like squatters, a downstairs space and rooms upstairs, and some windows. They can look out across the street where an ordinary family lives.

And, who are they? Yes, they are freaks. They are father and daughter, she seven years old, he committed to protecting her from the outside world, her not being allowed to go out, her creating a scenario of a false life in case she is caught and interrogated. And they can be identified because their eyes bleed. But there is something wrong with him and his protectiveness, he seems paranoid, intense, lapsing, collapsing.

Emile Hirsch plays the father, convincing in his concern (and, as he grows older, Hirsch could pass for Jack Black’s younger brother in appearance and style!). Chloe, his daughter, is most effectively played by Lexi Kolker. She is completely convincing and the focus of the film is on her character and her safety.

While the father does go out to get supplies, she asks for ice cream and then sees one of those ice cream trucks driven by Mr Snowcone. This will lead to some unexpected drama, with Bruce Dern and his ability to be both sinister and comic at the same time, driving the truck – and further revelations about what he wants with Chloe and more stories about her mother who had been captured and is now dead.

Or is she? She can appear to her daughter but the question is whether she is still alive or not. And, the filmmakers then continually tantalise us with shifts in time, the duration of time, the ability to shift in place, Chloe’s ability and her determination to enter into people’s minds and control them.

Further action includes the family across the street, the police and an inspector investigating, some torture chambers with the freaks as victims…

So, some congratulations to the writers-directors on their imagination and on their ingenuity in creating such an intriguing and striking film.

Icon                                      Released September 4th

Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.

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