TCM showed She Freak some time ago. I watched it then, but admittedly, my attention really wasn’t on it. I don’t remember what it was I was doing, but whatever it was it was more important than the movie. Anyway, when it showed back up in the schedule I was happy to sit down and give it my full attention the second time. I really shouldn’t have bothered. Despite that colorful poster up there She Freak is a bit of a dud.
Jade is a down-and-out waitress in a small little town. All she wants to do is get out and find something better. And if it helps her get away from her “Hey, my wife’s out of town this weekend *wink wink*” boss, then all the better.
To be fair, I’d want to get away from him too.
When an advertiser comes by with posters for the upcoming carnival, Jade jumps at his offer for a recommendation and makes a beeline for the carnival office where she lands a job as….a concession waitress. Way to move up in the world there, hun.
While there she meets the hunky ferris wheel operator….
How YOU doin’?
….and makes a new friend, The Carnival Stripper, Moon.
I don’t remember any strippers at any of the carnivals I went to.
After dear ol’ Jade gets the lay of the land, she wastes no time in learning the most important bit of information she can hope to get out of the carnival: Who’s the most eligible bachelor? (Say what you will, the girl wastes no time.) The answer: Newly widowed Steve St John, aka The guy who owns the Freak Show.
Well, Jade gets her wish and, after a whirlwind romance that involves nothing but carnival dates, Jade marries the giant sucker. What, you ask, could be the problem with the evil gold-digger marrying the rich older man? Well, other than she’s boinkin’ Ferris Wheel Guy, it turns out that Jade hates the freaks. I mean really hates them. She pretty much wishes for everyone with the slightest deformity to be stricken from the earth. If you had so much as a rip in your earlobe, this woman would want you dead. Not really a very attractive trait, but she’s a gold-digger, so I guess we’re not supposed to expect much more from her in the ways of character development.
Eventually Jade gets control of the Freak Show.
Sadly, money has done nothing for her fashion sense.
But the freaks don’t take to kindly to her….
The rose lighting, on the other hand, they really enjoy.
….and take their revenge.
And then of course you find out what they did to her. If you’re wondering why I gave such a complete synopsis, well, that’s because you really don’t need to see it. I’m kinda sad I saw it. The plot’s not all that bad, but that’s because She Freak is a grind-house remake of a much better film, Freaks from 1932. If you’re tempted to see either one or the other, go with Freaks. It’s a classic that definately deserves a viewing.
Freaks contains a primal power and a humanity in it’s characters that can be clear, touching and, at times, terrifying. It’s something that’s difficult to mimic. She Freak, on the other hand, is a film that greatly benefits from a fast forward button. The first few minutes, for instance, contain nothing but shots like this:
It’s an incredibly long montage that lasts several minutes before you even see the opening titles, and that’s not the only instance. There are also two more extended scenes where we watch the carnival being taken down and put back up again.
Okay guys. I know setting up the rides takes a while, but we really don’t need to see the whole thing.
For a film that only clocks in at 83 minutes, I suspect that about a full quarter of it involves nothing but shots of the carnival either being put up or taken down. There’s also various shots of the carnival with or without Jade wandering around aimlessly and looking at stuff. By the time Jade finally meets Moon you’re a half hour into the movie. That’s how long these scenes are.
Well, I DO declare! I think all that walking and looking gave me neck strain…..and I think I’m being followed by a little person….
Unless carnivals get you hot, there’s just too much damn carnival. Yes I know that most of the movie takes place at a carnival, but most of those shots would have been better condensed to a minute or less. Instead the director seems to have decided to use every second of carnival footage shot. They spent money shooting it, I guess they figured they might as well use it. But still, it’s just too much. Fast. Forward. Button.
Really, She Freak just screams “low budget” in general. The camera rarely moves, the actors are cringe-worthy, the fight scenes are poorly choreographed and shot, and the editing is often jumpy. There were a couple of instances where the screen would just go blank for a split second before picking back up again.
All of that I could have ignored had the cinematography been any good, but whatever little artistic flare they had was limited to scenes like this:
What’s very sad is that the freaks, the sole reason to really see the movie, are on screen for, what probably amounts to around 5 minutes. You see the snake lady at the beginning, and then the rest of them at the end, but by then it’s too little, too late.
In the end, She Freak is a remake that probably started out with good intentions, but fell incredibly short. If you really like carnivals, or enjoy old grindhouse films you may get a kick out of it, but really, this is the kind of movie that the guys at Mystery Science Theater 3000 lived for. I’m shocked it’s not in their roster of films already, because MST3k mockery could only make this movie better. I shall hope for a Rifftrax version.
She Freak is available for streaming via Amazon.
It has also received a DVD release.