Seven-year-old Chloe(Lexy Kolker) lives with her father (Emile Hirsch) in a boarded up, dilapidated home that she cannot leave. Every time she attempts to walk out of the front door, she is stopped by her father. She finds this frustrating and doesn’t understand why she can’t go out in the street like the other children that she can see out there. She is particularly tempted by an ice-cream truck that often travels through her neighbourhood. The truck is operated by an old man called Mr Snowcone (Bruce Dern).
The exact story of Chloe and her father is unfolded slowly and with care by writer/directors Zach Lipovsky and Adam B. Stein. And that story isn’t what the audience expect it will be. As the information is parcelled out, we see more and more of this world and the story changes again, as though we’re seeing it through the various sides of a glass prism.
Chloe’s father is a caring, loving man who engages her with games and she enjoys playing these. They have fun together. However, he is also a strict man and insists on teaching her a confusing variety of rules that he claims will keep her safe. Working out what these characters are doing, what their motivations are and what is actually happening in the outside world is what hooks the audience and takes us through this unusual movie.
Lipovsky and Stein have put together elements that may remind viewers of ROOM (2015) and early Stephen King. They elicit an excellent performance from Lexy Kolker. Hirsch and Dern are also very watchable in their roles. This is the type of film that requires a certain level of attention from an audience as we attempt to connect the puzzle pieces of story information. The characters at the centre of the film are at very different life stages (Kolker is 7, Hirsch 34 and Dern is 83) which means a great disparity in influence and world view. This makes for some fascinating and intense conflict.
Lipovsky directed a zombie comedy feature DEAD RISING (2015), he and Stein co-directed the KIM POSSIBLE movie for the Disney channel; they both have numerous producer, director and writer credits for television. This movie is not their debut, however as a team that can create something unexpected, this is definitely a calling card for them.
FREAKS is a Canadian made film that has impressed critics and audiences during its festival run. On purpose, it doesn’t fit neatly into any categories, but cleverly takes elements from a number of genres and mashes them together to great effect. This is a low-budget movie that relies on its story chops and strong performances. Duration 1 hour and 44 minutes. (7.5/10)
Listen to Darran’s interview with Emile Hirsch