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Film / Freaks (2018)

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Freaks is a 2018 American-Canadian science fiction thriller film written and directed by Zach Lipovsky and Adam Stein, starring Emile Hirsch, Bruce Dern, Grace Park, Amanda Crew, and Lexy Kolker. Chloe Lewis (Kolker) is a seven-year-old girl who has been kept in the house all her life by her father, Henry (Hirsch), who tells her that there are "bad men" outside who will kill her if she ever leaves, and that her only chance is to be completely normal. With the influence of a mysterious ice cream man, Mr. Snowcone (Dern), and a growing curiosity about the world outside, Chloe finds that the world outside is not ready for her.

Her mother (Crew) is not as dead as Chloe had been told, there are dangerous people named Abnormals (referred to by most as Freaks) who are known by the bleeding from their eyes, Mr. Snowcone knows more about her than he has let on, and her new family across the road may not be as willing to take her in as Henry believes. Chloe may not be ready to go out into the world, but they're definitely not ready for her either.


Not to be confused with the 1932 horror film of the same name or the 2020 film Freaks: You’re One of Us, also about superpowers.

This film exhibits the following tropes:

  • Ambiguous Situation: It's never made clear whether the destruction of Dallas was caused by malice on the part of the abnormal children or an inability to control their powers.
  • Anti-Villain: Mr. Snowcone is more along the lines of a supervillain, even down to the name, thanks to the hardships he's experienced with prejudice, but his goal is merely to rescue his daughter.
  • Asshole Victim: The main characters use their powers to murder several police officers. But it is hard to feel sorry for them when the police so readily shoot to kill anyone suspected of being "abnormal".
    • Also Nancy Reed, who sells Chloe out to the ADF.
  • Badass Normal: Cecilia, an unpowered ADF agent, is able to inflict a mortal wound on both Alan and Henry thanks to quick thinking and good tactics.
  • The Bad Guys Are Cops: The police will kill you just for having any superpower.
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  • Bad Humor Truck: This appears to be Mr. Snowcone's schtick, luring Chloe into his van with a promise of ice cream, and then driving off with her. He's her grandfather, and wants both a chance to spend time with her, and to recruit her to save his daughter, Chloe's mother.
  • Bait-and-Switch: On the part of the script writers. When introduced, the ice cream man shows all the hallmarks of an evil child abductor. However it turns out he's her granddad. He also appears to be manipulating Chloe into hating cops by calling them "the Bad People" who are trying to kill them, but it turns out they are!
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Nancy Reed, whom Chloe idolizes as the perfect mother figure only for her to later reveal she is only acting nice toward her because Henry is paying her to and that she is actually greatly prejudiced toward abnormal people.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Chloe is reunited with her mother, but her father and grandfather are dead, and the two survivors also face an uncertain future together.
  • Cape Busters: All normal humans hunt down Abnormals by any means necessary.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: There are parallels between the cops who instantly shoot dead anyone who has bleeding from their eye, and real life allegations against cops who shoot suspects without knowing for certain if they are armed.
    • Similarly, the plight of the abnormal being described as people deemed illegal who thus have to go underground to survive is reminiscent of undocumented immigrants in the United States.
  • Enfant Terrible: Early on, Chloe uses her powers to force a pre-teen neighbour to pretend to be her absent mother, and to hug and kiss her in order to fill the void that she feels due to her mother's absence. Later, she escalates to forcing people to kill themselves and others (albeit as an act of self defense). It's indicated in news stories during the film that the force of Abnormal children's powers is part of why the government is tracking down and killing Abnormals, showing that apparently the children's powers leveled the entirety of Dallas.
  • Flight: One of Chloe's mom's powers.
  • Flying Brick: Chloe's mom is very powerful when flying, as she is shown nearly liquefying one enemy soldier she flies into. However, she cannot to anything in a cramped space where she cannot fly.
  • Invisibility: This is Mr. Snowcone's power. He can make himself and his clothing invisible, as well as people he carries with him.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Nancy, after being controlled by Chloe calls her and her family in to get them killed. Chloe uses her powers to make the agents think she's the Abnormal and kill her.
  • Mind Control: Chloe learns she is able to command people to do things, and when she really concentrates, she can take full bodily control. This apparently also comes with a suite of powers that lets her do Remote Viewing on subjects she concentrates on, and even to be able to share visions of them to others.
  • Mutants: Abnormals are people genetically born with superpowers, things "normal" people do not have.
  • Outrun the Fireball: This is much easier to do if you have time manipulation powers.
  • Parting Words Regret: Chloe has an argument with her father and tells him "I hope you die," to which he replies "One day I'll be gone, and you'll regret saying that."
  • Please Wake Up: Chloe does this with her father Henry near the end of the film, saying it over and over, because her power to influence people is activated when she gives them a command multiple times.
  • Power-Strain Blackout: Near the end, both Chloe and her dad nearly faint from overuse of their powers, but recover long enough to both get out of their house before the drone strike hits, and to possess the guards in the mountain base to allow Chloe's mom to escape.
  • Properly Paranoid:
    • The film makes it appear that Henry is extremely paranoid about the outside world to the point of parental abuse, but it turns out he's right.
    • Similarly, the police are willing to shoot an Abnormal on sight or as soon as they see bleeding from the eyes. And it's shown that those who do hesitate tend to die.
  • Psychic Nosebleed: The Abnormals bleed from the inside corner of their eyes when they exert their power. Standard issue for the ADF is a UV flashlight to look for the telltale smear of blood, even if it's been wiped away.
  • Shockwave Stomp: Mary's flight whether taking off or landing causes a shockwave so powerful it destroys everything around her, and turns anyone unlucky enough to get caught in it into a bloody smear.
  • Steel Ear Drums: Pistols are fired inside houses, and rifles are fired inside a diner. No one is troubled by the noise.
  • Superpowerful Genetics: Abnormals have Abnormal children with different, but generally stronger, powers. It's mentioned at one point that while Abnormals were forcibly relocated if possible, their children are killed as they're just too powerful to control or contain. However, this policy has recently changed since the ADF now wish to capture an Abnormal child and raise it to be a weapon for the government.
    • This makes the reveal that Chloe's grandfather has powers an even bigger deal, as it means that Chloe herself is a third-generation Abnormal, explaining the extent and potency of her own abilities.
  • Time Stands Still: This is apparently how Henry's power operates when he activates his personal bubble of time. Things are still moving very slowing outside of the bubble, but he can manipulate it so that inside the bubble, time passes much faster.
  • Villain Has a Point: While society's treatment of Abnormals is absolutely awful, we do also get to see firsthand just how terrifying their powers can be, considering that at one point, Abnormal children caused the complete destruction of all of Dallas. And then there's Chloe, who can command basically anyone, basically anywhere, to do basically anything, including suicide. It's not really hard to see the threat people with this kind of power can pose to society and why keeping them in check just might be the only option to ensure the very survival of humanity.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: We never learn what happens to Nancy's husband and daughter after she is killed. While Cecilia claims the whole family were deemed abnormal to Henry, moments later she insinuates that this was a lie to get him to drop his guard and that the ADF has figured out how "Eleanor" tricked them.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: Chloe is seven and a half and has never stepped outside her house since she was a baby, and with good reason: Her dad Henry used his time dilation powers to create a time bubble around the house, making time move by much slower inside, while outside it's only been a few months, in order to raise her with the tools she needs to try and survive in a world that wants to kill her before he's eventually hunted down and killed himself.