Review of Freaks (1932)

17 Feb

Freaks (1932) is a horror/drama film, that actually used real sideshow performers as actors.

Directed by Tod Browning (Dracula (1931), Mark of the Vampire (1935)), best known for directing the horror classic Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi.

Based on Tod Robbins’ short story Spurs.

Starring: Wallace Ford, Leila Hyams, Olga Baclanova, Harry Earles, Daisy  Earles and others.

We open up to a text crawl. Already I feel almost like I’m watching Star Wars and, to be fair, that had it’s fair share of freaks as well. But still it doesn’t prepare you for what you’re about to see.

I’m a person that can watch horror movies where a person’s mouths are stitched to another person’s anus or a guy is raping a recently decapitated girl, but seeing real disfigured people really ”freaks” me out (see what I did there?) so I just don’t get why people ever wanted to go see some freaks at the circus.

I mean a lot of people call horror films perverse and sick, but the thing about them is that they’re fake, so you know the actors are safe, you are safe and there’s little probability of getting yourself into a real life slasher film scenario. However, when I hear someone telling me that they stubbed their toe and the nail came off, well that shit makes me cringe.

And in this film, although the plot is fictional all the disfigured people are real circus performers and that I find disturbing. And I’m torn about the reasons why. Because, while I do feel sorry for them, I also kind of find them disgusting and at the same time don’t want them to be shunned from society. Since I knew this is incredibly not-PC, I’ll stop right there.

So what we get is an incredibly mean-spirited story about a guy with some sort of midget-type disease (this is the medical term for it) and a good-looking completely normal woman who tries to scam him. From this we get the hilariously inappropriate tagline „Can a full-grown woman truly love a midget?”, the answer turns out to be no.

While the movie is very mean, it’s not really demeaning to the „freaks” , yet it also doesn’t present them as the most pleasant people to have around, their little society resembles more of a bizarre cult, than a quiet group of just regular people. I mean sitting around a table and chanting „one of us, one of us, gooble gobble, gooble gobble!” isn’t really a normal thing to do. Also the scene by the end where the freaks are crawling through mud in a storm, attacking people, while a powerful image doesn’t really portray them as nice people.

The acting is decent for an early 30’s „horror” flick.

I’d say this just might be the most disturbing 1930’s movie. Allegedly a woman claimed to have had a miscarriage from seeing this film, which is hilarious. But really I’d say this film should be rated R, because if I saw it as a kid, I’d have nightmares and most 13-year-olds would misinterpret this movie. Although, even I don’t get what this movie is trying to say, you’d think it would say freaks are just people like us, but here it seems like they’re really not.

Overall, I don’t even know. It’s a decent movie, but I don’t know if I’d recommend this to anyone, if you want something along similar themes I’d suggest choosing The Elephant Man.  But it is a peculiar piece of cinema history.

To be fair, all group photos tend to be a bit wacky.

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