At seven-year’s old Chloe (Lexy Kolker) has spent most of her life preparing for the horrific hardships of the real world. Isolated in a dilapidated home with her distraught father (Emile Hirsch), and repeatedly being told that danger lurks outside, Chloe longs to lead a normal life. Fed up with the suffocating nature of her father’s rules, Chloe disobeys her dad’s wishes and ventures outside. There she befriends a mysterious ice-scream salesman (Bruce Dern), who knows more about her than he lets on.

Playing like a hybrid of Frailty and X-Men, directors Zach Lipovsky and Adam Stein construct an entertaining film whose tonal shifts will no doubt rub some the wrong way. The first half of Freaks is a tense and claustrophobic exercise in paranoia. One is never quite sure whether the evil Chloe’s father warns about exists or if it is merely the product of an unstable mind. Once the film pivots to the concept of “freaks”, outcasts who look like us but are dangerously different, it drifts into familiar tropes regarding injustices that arises from our fear of the other.

Using Hirsch and Dern’s characters as conflicting moral compasses for Chloe, the film effectively contemplates whether passive discourse or aggressive action leads to effective change. This is key for understanding the “what if Magneto was right?” approach employed by characters in the latter half. While the latter section is not as compelling as what precedes, not all of the special effects hit the mark and there is a bit too much exposition, Freaks proves to be a darkly thrilling ride throughout. Frankly it is the type of film the X-Men franchise has unsuccessfully been trying to make for years.

Monday, September 10, 9:45 PM, Scotiabank Theatre
Sunday, September 16, 6:45 PM, Scotiabank Theatre