The opening moments of Zach Lipovsky and Adam Stein’s first feature, Freaks, playing as part of the TIFF Discovery program, are ripe with tension and an ominous sensation. Through a series of out of focus images and a menacing, decaying musical theme, Freaks seems to promise a chilling, tense work of psychological science fiction. Unfortunately, this foreboding opening is as terrifying as the film gets.
By no means are Lipovsky and Stein incompetent filmmakers. Freaks is a tightly-crafted work, never bearing the trademarks of a bad film. Its claustrophobic surface sheen lends itself a certain familiarity in its relationship to the North American indie film. Were the film to premiere at a more fitting festival like Sundance, it would likely be rapturously received – but in a festival with the breadth and spectacle of the Toronto International Film Festival, it’s surely to be lost.
Freaks is anchored by the strength of its performances. Emile Hirsch plays to the paranoid father-type extremely well, while Bruce Dern counters Hirsch’s performance with a certain levity. However, it’s nine-year-old Lexy Kolker that proves the film’s revelation. After a string of minor appearances, Freaks marks Kolker’s debut as significant player; a debut in which she largely outshines her more seasoned co-stars. The emotional weight of the film largely rests on Kolker’s shoulders and her ability to carry the film as a newcomer is impressive.
Described as an “oblique allegory about refugees, diversity, and fear of difference,” this is where Freaks begins to fall apart. While the filmmaking never comes across as cynical, Lipovsky and Stein’s intentions come through as extremely misguided. As a film about suburban paranoia, Freaks might have been more successful, but with the label of an allegory for refugees attached, the appearance of the film becomes more unsavoury. The “freaks” in the film – those standing in for the refugees or the sense of diversity – ultimately bring carnage and chaos to the world around them. This is an issue that demands the utmost sensitivity, but Freaks ends up being pushing a negative and violent view of marginalized peoples.
Freaks also meets its demise in the oversimplification of its narrative. The eventual reveal of the “freaks” ultimately undoes any attempts at dramatic tension in the film. When the protagonists find themselves in threatening situations, the result is almost always the same, proving to be the ultimate deus ex machina.
While not a film devoid of merit, Freaks unfortunately fumbles its attempt at social commentary. The intentions of the filmmakers may have been to make a critique of the way the world views outsiders, but the message that has ended up on the screen is one that directly counters that initiative. Lipovsky and Stein have proven capable filmmakers with Freaks, but their ambition to make something socially relevant ultimately squashes the potential of Freaks.
Schitt’s Creek to conclude after next season
The popular CBC sitcom Schitt’s Creek will end at the conclusion of its sixth season, series co-creator and star Dan Levy announced March 21.
“We are so grateful to have been given the time and creative freedom to tell this story in its totality, concluding with a final chapter that we had envisioned from the very beginning,” Levy said in a statement. “It’s not lost on us what a rare privilege it is in this industry to get to decide when your show should take its final bow.”
Schitt’s Creek premiered on CBC in 2015, becoming one of the network’s most successful half-hour comedies ever. The show follows the fish-out-of-water Rose family, forced to assimilate into a small town after they lose their family fortune.
Though the show’s first season received mixed reviews, it grew in regard with both fans and critics over subsequent iterations. Schitt’s Creek’s fifth season, which premiered on January 8, 2019, scored a 100 per cent “Fresh” ranking on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes.
The show is also among select company among Canadian sitcoms, drawing strong viewership in the United States and elsewhere thanks to distribution on Netflix and the American Pop network. Critics have reacted favourably to recent episodes, with TV Guide’s Megan Vick writing that each season of Schitt’s Creek has “gotten better and better.”
Read Levy’s full statement below.
To Our Dear Fans… pic.twitter.com/FIXjD3gbzA
— dan levy (@danjlevy) March 21, 2019
New episodes of Schitt’s Creek air Tuesday nights at 9/9:30 NT on CBC.
Watch the Oscar-nominated Canadian short “Animal Behaviour”
To get prepped for the 91st Academy Awards, the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) is offering Canadians the chance to check out Animal Behaviour, nominated tonight in the Best Animated Short Film category.
Animal Behaviour is a new short from Alison Snowden and David Fine, who previously won an Oscar in 1994 for Bob’s Birthday. The short is the 75th Oscar nomination for the NFB, and the first short film for Snowden and Fine since Bob’s Birthday. The 91st Oscars air tonight at 8 Eastern on ABC and CTV.
Watch Animal Behaviour below (expires tonight).
Next up on The Mutt: Wynonna Earp future in doubt as Season 4 delayed
Wynonna Earp future in doubt as Season 4 delayed
All of a sudden, Wynonna Earp is in Purgatory.
Earpers were stunned Thursday night when executive producer and showrunner Emily Andras posted (and subsequently deleted) a tweet suggesting that fans of the show may soon have to fight for it. Another tweet, posted shortly later, took a decidedly more straight-forward approach.
Don’t fuck with my family. 💕
— Emily Andras (@emtothea) February 21, 2019
Andras appeared to be responding to the news that funding for the fourth season of Wynonna Earp appeared to be on shaky ground, according to a report from The Hollywood Reporter. According to THR, financial challenges faced by IDW Entertainment have stalled production on Season 4, despite the company being contractually obligated to deliver the show to Syfy.
In response to the news, Earpers took to Twitter with the hashtag #FightForWynonna, which at the time of publication was one of the top Twitter trends in Canada. Though Season 4 has yet to be officially cancelled, IDW has yet to commit to a start date for the new season.
“IDW is committed to continuing to tell the Wynonna Earp story,” the company said in a statement posted to Twitter. “Much like the fans, we are passionate about not only the series, but the comics, the characters and the overall message that the Wynonna Earp franchise carries. We are in the process of working out the details for how the Wynonna story will continue and will share new details very soon.”
Our resident Earper, Ghezal Amiri, was a big fan of Season 3, writing that the show’s season finale, entitled “War Paint”, was a “wildly emotional conclusion.” Read her recap here.