Thursday, September 3, 2015

Freaks (1932) review


   Combining the elements of pure horror and compelling drama, Freaks lives to be more than just your basic shocker. It lives to be as true a variety show as it portrays, but never falling short of a few chills.

PLOT: The story takes place in your average traveling circus with its own special set of sideshow freaks, including things from bearded ladies and sword swallowers to things as extreme as limbless, deformed, and Siamese twin humans. All of the entertainers are very close to each other except for a certain two people: Cleopatra, Queen of the Trapeze (Olga Baclanova) and Hercules (Henry Victor). These two are perfectly normal, beautiful, and talented people and separate themselves from the other acts. However, one of the acts, a dwarf named Hans (Harry Earles) falls in love with Cleopatra and plans to leave his prior engagement for her. Cleopatra at first uses Hans as a servant and an entertainer, but when she finds out he has a small fortune hidden away, Cleopatra decides to marry him. After the wedding and a good few drinks, Cleopatra and Hercules yell in disgust at the freaks when they try to accept them as one of their own, revealing their true colors. Afterwards, all of the freaks hate Cleo and Herc, including Hans, and plan on getting revenge, especially after finding out she might be poisoning Hans. The plot is very well developed and executed excellently, with every element standing out and finding its place, from shock and horror to comedy and tragedy. The story elements fall perfectly into place all the way up to the chilling ending.

ACTING: The performances in this film are excellent. Olga Baclanova and Henry Victor both are excellent as Cleopatra and Hercules, establishing definitive duo of villains. They stood out about as much as the actual sideshow acts. One of the best features of this film's cast is the idea the filmmakers had to use real circus freaks in the cast. Harry Earles is really a dwarf. Daisy and Violet Hilton are real Siamese twins. The living torsos and pinhead-like beings are real. This effect in the cast makes the film extremely authentic and that much more chilling. The cast is well picked and excellently talented, keeping the tension high all the way up to the outstanding ending.

SCORE: The score is very haunting and effective, instilling a nostalgic feeling of horror and despair for the film.

OTHER CONTENT: This film may have some truly terrifying moments,which are filmed excellently enough to create an ominous, suspenseful mood, but Freaks itself contains all the elements of the variety show within the film. This film has comedy, tragedy, terror, a compelling story, and is overall very much like the circus within the film. Though a little cheesier compared to today's standards, the film does very much remain a classic of its time.

   Freaks is very much a show; the comedy, tragedy, horror and story are all there. However, it's a show memorable through its haunting camerawork and ominous, suspenseful mood building up the the shocker ending. The film is a lot of fun, but also a lot of serious emotion, enhanced by the excellently-picked cast.

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