From the title, if you assumed that this film would be about a group of freaks terrorising a group of innocent people… you’d be right. If you also assumed that the terrorising freaks would be the healthy human beings and not the sideshow freaks advertised… you’d also be right.
Freaks is a film from 1932 about a group of physically disadvantaged people who work in a sideshow as a group of “freaks” and their conflicts with the terrifying “normal” couple; Cleopatra and Hercules (also members of the sideshow). The couple intend to use Cleopatra’s beauty as bait for the loving dwarf Hans to unknowingly hand over his fortune after an elaborate murder. In short, the couple were going to kill Hans and steal his fortune.
Freaks is a hard film to figure out because on the surface, it doesn’t instantly fall into any genre. But after a closer look, Freaks is a horror film for a couple of small reasons. Despite it containing no jumpscares (YAY) and no suspense (BOO), Freaks does have a horror escence shining from the theme of the story. The theme in question being that if you mock someone that is less physically capable than you are, you will be worse than murdered. Watch the movie and you’ll understand.
Freaks did break a lot of content related boundaries upon first release although it hasn’t made a big impact iconically due to the fact that no one else has stepped out of those boundaries since. Tod Browning’s script wasn’t even remotely acceptable at the time of release and the original cut of the film has actually been destroyed forever although we still have the cut down version… which is still terrifying… I want to see the original now.
Every performance in this film is great and the development and introduction of the characters are written so well that if Tod Browning wanted you to hate a character in the film, you’d hate that character in the film. If he wanted you to love a character in the film, you’d love that character in the film.
Freaks was an incredibly shocking film upon first release (83 years ago) and even though most of the horrifying story elements (that shall remain unknown) have been cut down since, it is still a great horror film with an unexpected and rather uneasy experience that I would recommend to anyone who’s interested.
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