TIFF 2018: Freaks – A Psychological Thriller

Lexy Kolker as Chloe and Emile Hirsch as her father in Freaks. Credit: Masha Weisberg.

Freaks gets off an running thanks to a grounded story and standout performance from newcomer Lexy Kolker.

Seven-year-old Chloe (Lexy Kolker) is ordered by her dad, Henry (Emile Hirsch) to remain locked in their decrepit home.  Her dad thinks he is doing what’s best for her.  The reality couldn’t be further from the truth.  She’s not allowed outside.  As for her dad, we don’t really know what’s going on with him.  He tells Chloe that her mom, Mary (Amanda Crew), is dead because she broke the rules.  The filmmakers are wise not to reveal too much too soon.

While Chloe may be locked in her house, things appear and disappear in her closet.  She manipulates her neighbor, Harper into buying her ice cream.  Finally, she makes a run for it when dad falls asleep and encounters the friendly ice cream man, Mr. Snowcone (Bruce Dern).  There’s something familiar about Mr. Snowcone but it leaves us with questions.  He’s invested enough in her future to where he takes her to meet an ADF agent (Grace Park).

As a daughter locked in the house, Lexy Kolker is absolutely phenomenal in her feature film debut.  Every now and then, you see a young child turn in an incredible performance.  This is one of those performances and co-directors Adam Stein and Zach Lipovsky did a solid job in getting such a marvelous performance out of her.  The cinematography and sound design are framed in a way that tell the film from her point of view.

One can view this film for the psychological sci-fi thriller aspect or read between the lines.  Henry and his daughter are seen as freaks.  People are afraid of them.  There is a whole government agency, the ADF, who handle them and aren’t afraid of ordering the Hellfire missile.  If we look at what’s going on currently in America, they’re the immigrants that people want to keep away from our borders.  Or they’re the LGBTQ citizens who are frequently marginalized.  The point is that the freaks are seen as different from the rest of society.

It’s an impressive feature debut for Stein and Lipovsky.  The duo are also helming the Kim Possible live-action film.  They manage to tell the story using a nice amount of sci-fi but also know when to step back.   It works because of how grounded it is through the story of a father and daughter.

An relevant allegorical psychological sci-thriller for this day and age, Freaks benefits from some standout performances.

DIRECTORS/SCREENWRITERS:  Adam Stein and Zach Lipovsky
CAST:  Emile Hirsch, Bruce Dern, Grace Park, with Amanda Crew, and introducing Lexy Kolker

Freaks held its world premiere during the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival in the Discovery program. 

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

Leave a Reply