Tobe Hooper’s career has been spotty at best, but this was one of his early gems that got lost in the shuffle. Essentially, four teens hide on a carnival ride until the fair closes down for the night. At one point, they witness a carnie murder another, and soon they find themselves being hunted by the deformed, blood-thirsty monster and his barker father. The film has great atmosphere — what’s spookier than a carnival and it’s weird caravan of workers? Lastly, Rob Zombie couldn’t have made House of 1000 Corpses if it weren’t for Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Funhouse.
One of the first shocking horror films, Freaks cast actual sideshow performers in lieu of using make-up or prosthetics. The movie caused a huge controversy considering the material, which boggles my mind because it came out in 1932: weren’t sideshows and weird shit like that popular in the early 30s? I digress. The film was not received well, and it pretty much put an end to director Tod Browning’s career. However, it has since become somewhat of a classic.
In the film, a trapeze artist seduces a little person after learning he has inherited a large sum of money. They eventually marry, but the trapeze girl slowly poisons the little guy, intent on running off with his money — and the sideshow strongman. However, the other “freaks” catch wind of her diabolical plot and they quickly put a stop to her evil ways.
The original movie was apparently pretty gruesome, with the freaks castrating the strongman. Pretty heavy stuff for 1932. The material was so bad, in fact, that MGM insisted they cut the movie down from 90 minutes to 64 minutes! That’s a hell of a bite.
A must see for anyone who considers themselves a fan of the genre.