Tod Browning was one of the original Universal horror directors, with his biggest hit being ‘Dracula’ in 1931, and dozens of other successful films under his belt during the decades prior. After his success with the godfather of Fangs, one year later he decided to do a more pulled back story – enter, ‘Freaks.’
‘Freaks’ is a story that takes place within a circus sideshow event. A group of carnival oddities (played by real characters from a sideshow) live their everyday lives in between shows. The leader of the pact is a small person named Hans, who is beginning to fall for the beautiful trapeze artist named Cleopatra. He begins to really long for her and eventually proposes to her – but he is completely unaware of the disgusting scheme her and strongman Hercules are attempting to pull. It’s a story of love, lust, and deceit. It’s filmed in gorgeous black & white in what feels like a completely natural setting.
We grow with these performers as they bond together, eat together, and laugh together. The audience grows extremely empathetic as a sinister plan grows in front of our eyes. It’s a complicated movie with complex emotions all throughout, but it circles back to the ultimate rule of the sideshow on the road – “all freaks stick together, and feel together.”
It’s a movie with much more heart than it has scares, to the point where many people often debate if this is even a horror film, but the last 10 minutes has some of the creepiest images and heaviest vibes of any film of its time. It’s a brisk watch at just over an hour in length, but you go on a real journey with these people that you begin to fall in love with. Featuring classic gothic cinematography and a wonderful score that feels lived in and unique.
It’s a beautiful tale that goes into a dimension you’ve certainly seen referenced in many other titles, but at the time of its release, this film was considered highly shocking and repulsive – often leading to walkouts, controversy, and a large series of shots that were pulled from the film and lost to time. 90 years later, it’s highly regarded by top-tier directors as a masterpiece of its time and undeniably influential.
If you find yourself wanting to see something with plenty of warmth and heart that slowly evolves into a murky shadow of its self, then this is an excellent choice.
“Freaks” is currently streaming on Vudu, YouTube, Apple TV, & Amazon Prime.
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