Freaks - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Freaks Reviews

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½ April 11, 2017
I didn't know what to expect from Freaks. Though not quite a Casablanca or Gone With the Wind in terms of reputation and acclaim, it is undeniably a classic in its own right. Would I be seeing a campy and dated horror film? Would it just be mediocre by today's standards? Whatever I thought going into it, I could never have expected how touching a film it was and how much I unequivocally enjoyed it. This film deserves not to be known for inspiring a season of American Horror Story (Freak Show), or for being banned, but as a fantastic piece of cinema. It was designed to break preconceptions, and it broke mine.

This is a film about the importance of solidarity and accepting all no matter who they are. Cleopatra, a 'beautiful' trapeze artist, has enchanted the dwarf Hans and is to marry him. However, we discover that Cleopatra merely wants his fortune, and looks down upon her fellow circus performers as being 'Freaks!'. After one of the most quotable and powerful scenes I have ever seen, in which Cleopatra refuses their request to become 'one of us!' on the day of her wedding to Hans, they quickly cotton on to her real motive. They then exact their horrific revenge, in a terrifying climactic chase scene. Cleopatra is tarred and feathered, has her legs removed, and speaks like a chicken. It is a nightmarish scene, with harrowing imagery. The film luckily shies away from a campy tone, delivering a thought-provoking and disturbing, yet strangely touching, experience instead.

Through this description, it may sound like I am vilifying the 'freaks' for their gruesome attack on Cleopatra. This couldn't be further from the truth. The film spends so much time humanising these characters and fleshing them out. Director Tod Browning challenges viewers, keeping us amongst the 'freaks', letting them be seen with an intimacy still unrivalled. The theatricality of their real jobs could be the basis for the sincerity and brilliance of their confident performances, and this helps us to relate to them. We learn not to see them as the 'freaks' people so commonly judge them as, but as humans with unique personalities and aspirations, able to love, laugh and feel pain. They see the world like us and feel the same emotions. They are humans. Browning makes us look past any preconceptions. He could easily have made a horror film where the 'freaks' are devoid of humanity. Considering this is a 1930's film, he would have been able to. He doesn't though, and that makes this film commendable and even heartwarming. He spent time in his life living with circus 'freaks', and whether they are smaller, less conventionally attractive or intelligent, he treats them as people. Cleopatra however, treats them as meaningless and pathetic beasts.

Though the attack on Cleopatra is horrific, it's forgivable as they have been oppressed their whole lives. They are forced to forge respect for themselves and are morally above the contempt-ridden Cleopatra. Though the attack does risk doing so, I don't think it detracts from or betrays our sympathy and respect for the 'freaks' or distorts the film's message. Cleopatra attempts to murder Hans, lacking a shred of humanity or compassion. She is superficial and shallow and feels superior to all. She relies on her appearance to manipulate others, and this emphasis on looks explains her name. Frieda, Hans' real love, perfectly juxtaposes her. Though less in stature, she treats others with an honest love and respect that Cleopatra could never replicate and is selfless. She is superior in every way as a person, displaying true beauty. Though arguably excessively gruesome, Cleopatra's deformity highlights that she is the real freak. She deserves no sympathy as she has none for others. Her fate fits the framework of a horror film with the catharsis it evokes. She gets what she deserves. Cleopatra had to be stopped, or she would have torn apart the community and the fabric of their lives. If she was not punished it would excuse and even promote intolerance and discrimination.

This masterpiece truly has stood the test of time, and still retains its tenderness and its progressiveness. It is a hugely original, innovative, and challenging film, made in a mature manner with sublime production and direction. Tod Browning deserves infinite praise for making not just an incredible film, but one full of heart, with a message which is just as relevant, if not more so now, than it was over 80 years ago. He gives a voice to the voiceless, and his intentions are laudable. Not many films can be so politically minded and still fit in with mainstream views nearly a century on, but this one can. Though the world of Browning's circus is small, the message of the movie is universal. It deserves its status as a humanitarian cinematic classic.
March 10, 2017
Still one of the best horrors.
it can still scare and shock.
It's just superb.
January 20, 2017
An absolute Horror classic. The perfect "revenge" story. This movie has all the horror and suspense you could expect from a classic. The "Freaks" are amazing! It impresses me the things they can do. For example someone with no legs or arms can light a cigarette. Blows my mind! Also the ending was truly Horrific and awesome! I define fly recommend this to Horror lovers.
December 27, 2016
A classic film that was way to ahead of its time.
December 1, 2016
Has a movie ever been faster paced than 'Freaks'?

Not even close.

I would love to see this film fully restored with improved audio as I feel like I missed 30% of the dialogue due to muffled tracks on the version I watched, but there's still something incredibly compelling about this breezy little movie that makes society's "freaks" into heroes who stand up for each other when the going gets tough.

This movie is the definition of being ahead of it's time.
½ November 24, 2016
Tod Browning's cult-classic stands the test of time, thanks to its quality of humanization towards its cast of physically deformed individuals whom a judgmental and ignorant society would deem as "Freaks."
October 27, 2016
8.2/10. 10-27-2016

Original rating: 10-13-2013 (7/10)
October 11, 2016
At first, it seems exploitative and crass. Probably the last place on earth I want to be. As the film went on, the story ended up drawing me in, & I felt sympathy for the characters. It begins slowly, but eventually tells a fairly relevant moral parable, & tells it well.
One can't deny the sense of exploitation; but the story is so good, it becomes a bit of an afterthought. The duck thing is too much. They could have made Cleo grotesque without straining credulity. Yet she is pure evil. One of the worst villains of all time. This film will not be quickly forgotten.
½ October 11, 2016
This is a wonderful piece of love and acceptance, progressive WAY ahead of its time. It aims to show that all people are people and those who think otherwise are the true villians.
½ August 11, 2016
Simply terrifying. I think the most disturbing thing portrayed in this film is the social attitude toward those with disabilities and the prevalence of eugenics that was a very real problem less than a century ago - an attitude that we see re-emerging in our current culture. Gubble gobble gubble gobble.
August 11, 2016
I knew Freaks is real in circus shows. And It is GREAT!
½ July 31, 2016
There is so much substance in this film, and it adds to it that these are all real people in the circus troop. Such an achievement for such an early film. I only wish the deleted scenes towards the end weren't lost over time (scenes that were deemed too inappropriate for audiences) which made for such a short running time at 64 minutes... I didn't want the film to end.
June 27, 2016

How strange it is to see almost 100 years later a film that has shocked the ages and that still has some strange charm that comes from seeing the Freaks going through perfectly relatable situations and suffering through feelings that extend to the major plot point of the film.
June 8, 2016
This is quite touching in parts. I guess their choices were limited under the circumstance but its let down some by some poor acting, and quite a flimsy plot that just seems tagged on at the end.
March 13, 2016
A big step up for Browning after his stodgy, stage-bound version of "Dracula". His genuine love for circuses, carnivals and sideshows definitely inspired him to make a more lively and energetic film. He still doesn't seem completely comfortable with sound film. The soundtrack is not clear and he employs actors with dense accents that have difficulty with English dialogue. You can understand this in the case of a few of his actors playing the titular freaks, but a couple of the leads have thick accents too. What he achieves though is both a genuinely creepy and disturbing film that doubles as an impassioned plea for acceptance and understanding.
March 5, 2016


Review from Italy.
½ March 1, 2016
This highly disturbing film has gone on to become a cult Classic. Directed by Tod Browning who directed the original "Dracula"(1931), it follows a bunch Circus freaks, who are played by real-life circus performers. It is at times stylistic, scary, and unnerving. It's only 64mins long due to cuts for the censors so it's a short watch. Check it out if a fan of the bizarre, you can see its influence on people like David Lynch. it not a fan of the bizarre, then skip it.
February 20, 2016
Colorfully bizarre, thoroughly original, well acted, and one of the most unnerving finales in movie history. "Freaks" hits all the marks.
½ January 25, 2016
A Tod Browning masterpiece. As one of the greatest horror directors of all time, Browning broke new ground with Freaks that has not necessarily been retread since. In fact, this film was banned in several jurisdictions for decades. The recent season of American Horror Story borrowed heavily from this film, including poaching characters directly. Such has been the influence of this film on the horror film genre.

The shocking final scenes of the movie and the "Google Goggle" dinner chant are classic scenes, repeated several times subsequently in films, The Wolf Of Wall Street among them.

This film is not for everyone, especially those squeemish to see real-life "freaks". Overall, a disturbing and unsettling classic.
½ January 11, 2016
This movie was a gem, it was ahead of it's time.
It was really sad however that this movie was badly received by the audience at the time of it's premier and later became the decline of Tod Browning's directiong career, the man who directed Dracula a year prior. I even bought the movie after seeing some clips of it on youtube and i were NOT disappointed. I recommend this movie for you who like a good thriller horror movie.
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