Freakshow (2007)

Produced by The Asylum Studios, Freakshow is a loose retelling of Tod Browning’s classic 1932 movie Freaks. Being that Freaks is one of my all-time favourite movies, and armed with the knowledge that Freakshow was produced by the same company responsible for Gorepress favourite Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus, Transmorphers and Snakes On A Train, it’s safe to say that I approached it with considerable caution. Freakshow, while cheaply made and somewhat poorly acted, is actually a fairly watchable movie but by no means does it deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Browning’s opus.

The story is much the same with a few minor changes. A band of criminals, fresh from their latest con, seek refuge in a circus where they are given jobs. It isn’t long before they are planning their next heist and plotting to steal the circus fortune from right under the Ringmasters nose. When the ‘freaks’ get wind of their plan, they take their revenge in the only way they know how.

Comedienne Rebecca Kochan takes centre stage here and although arguably being the strongest cast member, still fails to convince throughout most of the running time. She is joined by a motley crew of both actors and genuine circus performers. The wolfboy, a ‘human shadow’, cannibal girl, suspension guys, the strongman, the elephant man and miscellaneous others are all present and correct. Lacking though, is the sympathetic manner in which they were presented in 1932’s Freaks. There was never a moment that I sided with them over the ‘regular’ humans and rather than seeing them as misunderstood individuals, they appeared more as a group of people that had alienated themselves from society, rather than the other way around.

Filmed on the set of now defunct TV show Carnivale and using props from the LA Circus, Freakshow certainly looks the part. The budget might have been small and the yellow-tinged filming style looks pretty cheap but the set sure does help the movie attain at least a small sense of realism.

The DVD box comes proudly baring the sentence “Banned in 43 countries”. While there might be an element of truth to the statement, the cynic in me is leaning towards the belief that whoever wrote it might be prone to serious hyperbole. The last twenty minutes of the movie, or as some might call it; the payoff, are truly gruesome but surely not enough to lead any Western country to ban it outright in the year 2010 so I suspect this may be a canny marketing ploy and nothing more.

While never looking as though it might be real, that final scene, in all its wince-inducing gory glory is still a sight to behold. The punishment is protracted and certainly not for the faint of heart but just about makes everything that came before it, worth sitting through.

Freakshow is typical Asylum fare. It’s cheaply made, poorly acted and the script makes any one of Jordan’s unnecessary biographies seem like a high point in modern literature, but it was clearly made with a true love of horror and film in general at heart. It suffers heavily from a rather dull mid section but still manages to be surprisingly memorable, if not necessarily for the right reasons.

Rating: ★★★★½☆☆☆☆☆

2 Comments on “Freakshow”

  1. Aaron Gillott says:

    I believe “Banned in 43 Countries” was a typo. Wouldn’t “Binned” make much more sense? ;)

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