We are the Freaks was written and directed by Justin Edgar and is an attempt to make a British teen comedy. Set in the England of 1990, when Thatcher was resigning and raving was the way everyone spent their weekends, it concerns the lives of three young men of applying-to-uni age. With a period soundtrack including New Order and the Happy Mondays there are elements of the film that will appeal to an older generation, although it is squarely aimed at an age-bracket that will find a ‘sexual injury’ highly amusing.
The film sets out its surreal credentials in the first scene when Jack (well played by Jamie Blackley) pulls out a gun and uses it with extreme prejudice on an innocent passer-by. From the start we get the talking to camera that continues throughout the film, as Jack tells us everything he hates. Which includes films where the characters talk to the camera…
Jack reads Bukowski and is hoping to go to Bolton University to study creative writing. At the moment he is working in a bank, giving the director the chance for a fun scene where Jack defends his time-keeping with the invention of a whole new form of dyslexia. His friend Chunks (Sean Teale) moves around town in a Porsche. I’ve written moves rather than drives as he suffers from a bad dose of 1950s film-driving where he twiddles the steering-wheel and doesn’t look where he’s going. There’s only one way that he doesn’t crash as he pulls faces out of the side-window and it’s got lots to do with the fact that he’s not really driving. This breaks the filmic illusion, but then this is being deliberately broken by the cast throughout the film – so is a minor point. The third lead is Parsons (Mike Bailey) who somehow gets in a drug dealer’s good books. This gets him out of a violent pickle but also leads to an amusing set-piece scene of misplaced assistance – Michael Smiley giving an excellent turn as Killer Colin.
A letter arrives at the beginning of the film that will tell Jack whether he has been given a grant to go to university. Several times throughout the film he looks at the envelope and almost opens it. I recognise the difficulty he faces. All his dreams may be smashed by opening the letter, but it feels as though this it being dragged out too much. Just open the envelope you’ll find yourself shouting at the screen.
Not being in control of your own life is a constant for these characters, whether through lack of money, too many drugs or lack of ambition. Life is clearly unfair, but though the waste of young lives is glimpsed, shots of pretty people taking drugs only reinforce the belief that they are cooler than passing an exam. There are no consequences for what occurs in the film and the characters do not show the many down-sides of being a ‘text-book underachiever’. It doesn’t usually lead to driving a Porsche.