Sunday, March 5, 2017

Day 125: Freaks

This horror classic was directed by Tod Browning, who also helmed the original Dracula. Freaks, in my opinion, still holds up to the test of time.

The story is set at a traveling circus where Browning cast real-life freakshow performers as his characters. There is a rich little person named Hans, who is madly in love with Cleopatra, a trapeze artist. Hans asks Cleopatra to marry him and she cooks up a scheme with her lover, the strongman Hercules, to take all of Hans' money with the old "marry and murder" routine. Things go badly for her.

It is still  unsettling to see the pinheads or the human worm in this movie and know that none of this is make-up or special effects. The circus community rallies around Hans once Cleopatra's scheme is discovered and the final shots, of various freaks crawling and slithering through rain-slicked grass and mud towards a bad guy's hiding place is still one of the most disturbing images caught on film.

Browning drew from his real life to make this movie but it kind of ruined his career. Reviews were unkind and people described it as revolting. It was banned in the UK for 30 years after its release. You can see it pretty much anytime and I would still recommend it.

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