Saturday, October 8, 2011

68. Freaks


I grew up reading The Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket.  He was extremely funny and of course, I was considered extremely well-read by fellow seven-year-olds for having read the entire series.  One of the books took place in a circus, and the three main protaganists befriended many of the "freaks".  It was disturbing to me as a child. When I watched this movie, I got the same unsettling feeling.

The film starts with an audience screaming as they see an incredibly awful sight.  A circus performer then begins to tell the tragic backstory of one of the freaks.  I have always loved films that are flashbacks although this one is a lot more grosteque then say, The Titanic (couldn't be more different actually).  I got the ending ruined for me simply by looking up background on the movie but I will not spoil it for you.

This movie is probably nothing like you have seen before.  It is completely authentic and in the age we live in now, I feel safe in saying that a film like it will never be made again.  This movie, though, was not made to make fun of or gawk at the freaks but rather to show that inside they are exactly the same as us (I know that sounded lame but deal with it!). The people that pay to see them are shown as the freaks, not the performers.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

The electrical equipment on set was faulty so the actors were frequently shocked.

The romance between the midgets was subdued because they were brother and sister.

It is still technically illegal to watch this movie in some parts of the US because the laws that banned this movie were never really repealed.  Uh oh.

A fan made trailer I found:


  1. Films like this should not be left all alone and un commented upon.

    Wow.. what a film.

    I had heard of this one before starting my treck through the list, and had intended to track it down sometime.. but it was it;'s inclusion that made me go out and buy it.

    What an effect it must have had on people seeing it for the first time back then...

    Slight spoiler alert ahead..

    Referring to the 'shock' ending... As this film is so commented on. (and it is not the sort of film you would watch without knowing about it).. today you almost certainly know the ending before watching. The book, for goodness sake, illustrates the end, so you know. at least roughly, what is coming, if not how.

    I was still so stunned I immediately re-watched the entire film.

    Do you have access to the extras? Such as alternative endings.. with commentary as to how/why they were included/omitted? The commentary track for the whole movie is one of the best chat tracks I've come across as well.

    I can see why many would not even try this film.. to them I say.. go on, try it.. For no other reason than you will suddenly get dozens of references in modern horror films.. and lots on in jokes in 'The Simpsons' and 'family Guy' as to just what they mean when someone goes "one of us, one of us"

    1. One of the earliest horror films and is just as disturbing as modern day horror movies!

  2. You are exactly right, Amanda. This is a movie that shows the freaks as the normal, humane people and the "normal" ones as the cruel freaks. I loved this one heaps for the sheer humanity of it and Browning for daring to do something different.

    1. I know I comment on a lot of your posts and say "I can't remember this!" but this one really stood out for me too.

  3. I watched this last night and am still not exactly sure what to make of it. Increasingly I'm sure I liked it a lot, even if I'm not sure I should have done. It crashed under a barrage of outrage and controversy at the time (usually a good sign) and would surely be too controversial to be made today, but for opposite reasons? At the time the 'freaks' themselves were too shocking and I see one reviewer said the film failed because a viewer could never empathise with them because they weren't normal. Fast forward to the terribly enlightened year of 2016 and the exploitation of the stars for our entertainment would be the problem.

    And they are exploited, by modern terms at least. Several scenes rely upon us being entertained by how they are and what they do, either laughing with them or sometimes at them. And their 'freakish' nature is key to the horror element as they get together for their revenge.

    I read that this revenge was much extended in the original version which would have been great to see but was cut after disastrous advance screenings and since lost. It would also have made the final reveal of the feathered villainess make sense as we would see how she got that way.

    Sorry for always putting spoilers in the comments. I figure anyone who reads down this far must have seen the film already.

    1. Apparently they paid homage to this film in American Horror Story, but I haven't seen the circus season.