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The DVD cover art for this trash contains some pretty astounding hype promising “THE MOST HORRIFYING FILM OF THIS CENTURY” with “A CAST OF ACTUAL SIDESHOW PERFORMERS” that was “BANNED IN 43 COUNTRIES.” What can I say? I fell for it.

The Package
     FREAKSHOW is a product of the aptly named B-movie outfit The Asylum, responsible for the likes of SNAKES ON A TRAIN and all those trashy SyFy Channel movies with MEGA and DINO in the titles. FREAKSHOW turned up on DVD before any of the latter films, with promotion so shameless (see above) it rivaled the glory days of Kroger Babb and William Castle. The actual film is…well, about what you might expect.

The Story
     Lon, the facially deformed owner of a sleazy circus, runs his outfit with an iron fist, promising that anyone who crosses him will get their just desserts. What Lon doesn’t know is that among his employees are a gang of thieves looking to rip him off! The fetching blonde ticket taker Lucy connives with the thieves’ slimy ringleader Lee to seduce, marry and then kill Lon.
     The first two parts of Lucy’s plan go off without a hitch, except for the fact that a sideshow midget has overheard Lucy scheming. This causes widespread suspicion and distrust among the sideshow performers, which the love-struck Lon writes off as jealousy. The wedding is planned and Lon’s sideshow pals throw a banquet to formally accept Lucy into their fold. But Lucy freaks out during the banquet, screaming “I don’t give a fuck about any of you!”
     Lee demands Lucy proceed with the marriage and apologize to Lon. This she does. Lee, however, goes over the edge, killing and scalping(?) a freak girl.
     Understandably pissed off, the circus’ denizens retaliate by tracking down and slaughtering Lee and his gang. The freaks save their coup de grace for Lucy, knocking her out and tying her to a table where they surgically transform her into one of them.

The Direction
     FREAKSHOW’S stately camerawork and measured art movie pacing don’t for a second disguise its inherent trashiness. The low budget is evident in the cheesy digital photography and the fact that the circus scenery, despite having been filmed on location at an actual circus, never feels the slightest bit authentic (few customers are ever visible). If anything, FREAKSHOW resembles a filmed play, and one that’s strictly of the high school variety! The only times it comes alive is when director Drew Bell lingers on such sights as the lead actress’ bare breasts, a guy hanging from hooks stuck through his torso and the heroine getting (unconvincingly) skinned.
     The film is an obvious rip-off of Tod Browning’s FREAKS, and FREAKS offshoots are always a dicey proposition (see SHE FREAK). The “Actual Sideshow Performers” in FREAKSHOW’S cast (most of them quite normal looking) are a far cry from those of Browning’s film, or even the “dirty, slobbering, deformed oddities” proclaimed by the heroine.
     Bottom line: what a piece of shit!

Vital Statistics

The Asylum

Director: Drew Bell
Producers: David Michael Latt, Sherri Strain
Screenplay: Kieth Leopard
Cinematography: Mark Atkins
Editing: Kristen Quintrall, David Michael Latt
Cast: Christopher Adamson, Rebekah Kochan, Robert Pike, Daniel Dean Arevalo, Mighty Mike Murga, Jim Goldman, Bill Quinn, Jeffrey Allen