Freaks starts out (or so you think) as a film which promises to deliver some uncomfortable moments between an over-protective dad who may or may not be outright crazy as well as possibly dangerous, and a cute, socially inexperienced, awkward and defenseless little girl. If you know nothing about the film going in, like we did not, upon viewing the first few scenes, naturally, your mind can't help but run to all kinds of dark places, wondering where the filmmaker is going to take us.
Well, where it goes, although the ride stagnates at times, are dark and eerie places touching on the horror genre, and then surprisingly, it pulls back and takes an unexpected left turn into something completely different.
Much of the supporting cast isn't anything to write home about, however, the outstanding performances by the two leads, especially Lexy Kolker as the little girl, and her dad, played by Emile Hirsch, pretty much carry the film. Bruce Dern also delivers, if not a great performance, at least a mentionable one. His role in their lives unravels slowly and is not completely understood until somewhere in the middle of the film. It takes a while to discern what his purpose truly is and for the viewer to see the entire picture. I enjoyed that.
I also liked that the film lets the viewer decide for themselves if what they've witnessed is abuse, trauma, or something else entirely. I also like that while I believe the characters are used as a stand-in or metaphor for discrimination, it isn't anything that is heavy-handed or overtly pushed.
All in all, I found Freaks to be entertaining, and that its concept had been well-executed and delivered. The journey, despite the twists and turns, was captivating, and the destination was 99% pleasing, if not 100% where I wanted to go.