A group of circus performers turn on the beautiful trapeze artist when she deceives one of their own. Freaks is the origin of the practice of chanting “One of us! One of us!” when a person joins a group (such as an internet forum) where the members have a reputation for being a little bit unusual. The film begins with an opening scroll that explains why this film is necessary and not at all exploitation. I appreciate that it refers to the love of beauty as “deep seated,” because it makes my eyes roll back in my head when that expression is written as “deep seeded.” It’s like saying something “peaked” your interest instead of “piqued,” or that someone suffered a “grizzly” death instead of “grisly.” Unless of course they were killed by a bear.

My husband loves this movie, so it’s on the list for our 31 days of horror project. Personally, I’d rather watch that Florida circus town episode of X-Files. I’d even rather be watching The Sentinel, which also used actual disfigured people as monsters. I do have to admit that the guy with no arms and legs rolling a cigarette is pretty impressive, and I think it’s important that the people in this movie were documented on film because everyone of note should be. But the sound quality isn’t great, and besides that everyone talks in that old-time radio “why I oughta” way that they talked in low-budget movies in the 30s, and it drives me up the wall.

Other than that, you’ve already read infinity of articles trying to impose current-day virtues on works of art from the past, so I’m not going to do that. And let’s not pretend that current reality TV isn’t chock full of modern day “freaks” such as the people who eat mattresses, the women who don’t know they’re pregnant, the Real Housewives, and those a-holes with beards. I’m not a big fan of Freaks because I just don’t enjoy it. It’s the same thing as when a joke is literally not funny to someone, over and above being offensive. But Freaks is no joke, and it ruined the director’s career because it scared the shit out of people. It was banned in some countries, and its greatest sin was that it didn’t make any money. For that reason it was a genuine curiosity and rare at one time, and we’re lucky it exists and is available today because it’s a bummer when films get lost. Freaks is undeniably a piece of film history, regardless of opinions about its quality.