But Freaks isn't a horror film because of its climax, in which the circus performers disfigure a trapeze artist who plots to seduce and murder a midget for his inheritance. The comeuppance is nasty (in an earlier ending rejected by preview audiences, her co-conspirator was castrated), and the image of knife-wielding carnies crawling through the mud is unsettling. But that's beside the point.
The real horror lies in the film's tagline: "Can a full-grown woman truly love a midget?" In a pre-Munchkin Hollywood, turns out nobody could. The "one of us" sequence—in which chanting freaks offer a symbolic chalice to a "normal" woman—is mistakenly remembered as a cultish act of assimilation, with a beautiful woman dragged into a world of terrors. In fact, the freaks are welcoming her with open arms and a âloving cup,â only to have their generosity thrown in their faces.
Viewers came to leer at monsters, not be confronted with their own prejudices. It'd be like tuning into Honey Boo Boo and finding an eloquent Mama June quoting Hammurabi. We love our freaks, but we're terrified of them suddenly becoming human.
- Timed wonderfully for Hump Day, Cinekink returns with an 11-year retrospective of sex-positive filmmaking, plus a new series of shorts featuring things that are actually pretty long. Clinton Street Theater. 7 and 9 pm Wednesday, Aug. 6.
- Top Down presents 1953âs The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T, Dr. Seussâ terrifyingly surreal tale of child slavery and the horrors of piano lessons. Hotel deLuxe. 8 pm Thursday, Aug. 7.
- In 1969, documentarians Albert and David Maysles visited the Altamont Free Concert for peace, love and the Rolling Stones. Instead, they captured a concertgoerâs murder, and with it, the death of the â60s. Gimme Shelter remains a riveting portrait of the demise of a dream. Hollywood Theatre. 7 pm Friday-Saturday, Aug. 8-9.
- Don Bluthâs An American Tail tells a classic American immigrant tale through the eyes of an adorable Russian-Jewish mouse. But would it have killed him to get Neil Diamond to provide the soundtrack? Because Fievel singing the Jewish Elvisâ âAmericaâ seems like a solid choice. Academy Theater. Aug. 8-14.
- How do you win the heart of the woman you love? Stalk her into submission. Thanks for the restraining order, Say Anythingâ¦. Laurelhurst Theater. Aug. 8-14.
- Perhaps Wes Andersonâs most polarizing film, The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou might be fluff, but Bill Murray as a faux Jacques Cousteau is enough to keep it (sorry) afloat. Fridayâs screening is paired with the Cousteau doc Voyage to the Edge of the World at 6:30 pm. NW Film Centerâs Whitsell Auditorium. 8:30 pm Friday, 5 pm Saturday, Aug. 8-9.
- The less you know about 1992âs surreal Arizona Dream, the better. Lest you doubt its commitment to weirdness, know that it stars Johnny Depp, Jerry Lewis, Faye Dunaway and a fish. Clinton Street Theater. 7 pm Saturday-Sunday, Aug. 9-10.
- Before Boyhood, Richard Linklater spent 20 years chronicling a relationship with the Before Sunrise series, beautifully following a romance from star-crossed to stagnant. 2004âs Before Sunset might be the best, though 2024âs Before Apocalypse sounds promising. 5th Avenue Cinema. Aug. 8-10.
- One old-school circus act missing from Freaks is a giant. The Princess Bride, on the other hand, includes historyâs best giant, in the form of Andre. Pioneer Courthouse Square. Dusk Friday, Aug. 8.
- Mary and Max is a bizarre and touching clay-animated feature that uses its strange aesthetic and the power of words to dissect depression, loneliness and mental disability. Whitsell Auditorium. 7 pm Sunday, Aug. 10.
- Kung Fu Theatre brings back Invincible Armor, a film that proves even an indestructible warrior is vulnerable if you thwap him in the junk. Hollywood Theatre. 7:30 pm Tuesday, Aug. 12.