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“Freaky Tales” Is a Genre-Bending Love Letter to 1980s Oakland   

Ji-young Yoo, Pedro Pascal and Jay Ellis listening at the Freaky Tales premiere. (George Pimentel/ Shutterstock for Sundance Film Festival)

By Stephanie Ornelas 

“Make some noise if you’re from the Bay Area!” 

Director Ryan Fleck says this to a cheering audience on January 18 at Eccles Theatre in Park City, Utah, before the world premiere of Freaky Tales, which he co-directed alongside Anna Boden. 

“Are there any Warriors fans in the house?” he asks next. “I’m talking about the basketball team and the 1979 film by Walter Hill.” 

“Are there any 1980s hip-hop and R&B fans in the house?” he continues. “Now, here’s the curve ball: Are there any 1980s West Coast punk rock and hardcore fans in the house?” 

And the audience went wild. 

“This is going to be challenging,” adds Fleck. “Take note: If you’re sitting next to somebody who made noise for all those things, you’ll have to move seats because their heads will literally explode when they watch this movie.”   

Though Festgoers made it out of the screening in one piece, they went wild at the end of the premiere and were ecstatic to see several of the cast members take the stage, including Pedro Pascal, Normani Kordei Hamilton, Dominique Thorne, Ben Mendelsohn, and Jay Ellis. 

An ode to Oakland’s pop culture in the ’80s, the film follows and connects four different underdog stories, and Fleck explains to audience members what inspired his idea for the film. 

“May 10, 1987. I started having these dreams,” says Fleck during the film’s post-screening Q&A. “Ever since that Sleepy Floyd game. It was a phenomenal game. I felt like the underdogs could at least win one.”      

PARK CITY, UTAH – JANUARY 18: Pedro Pascal, Ryan Fleck, and Anna Boden attend the “Freaky Tales” premiere at Eccles Theatre on January 18, 2024, in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Shutterstock)

This leads us to four captivating tales: an epic rap battle with Hamilton and Thorne, a recently retired henchman’s (Pascal) intense revenge tale, a punks vs. Nazis take on Walter Hill’s The Warriors, and one NBA star’s (Ellis) bold mission to seek justice that leads to the murder of dozens of white supremacists. 

“This is sort of like my 12-year-old fantasy of a movie. Some movies you want to make to work with an actor, some movies you want to make because of the subject matter and you really have to tell that story. This one, I just needed to see. No one else was going to make this movie. I had to make it to see it. I wish I was out there with you seeing it for the first time. And then of course, I dragged Anna along with me on this journey.”   

This isn’t the first time Fleck and Boden stepped in front of Sundance Film Festival audiences. Long before the filmmaking duo teamed up to bring us Half Nelson, Mississippi Grind, and Captain Marvel, they were right here in Park City two decades ago to present Gowanus, Brooklyn.

“I’m going to take a little bit of time to get a little sentimental because the first time we were here with a film that we made together was [for] our short film Gowanus, Brooklyn 20 years ago,” says Boden. “Sundance is a really important Festival to us. We were just young wannabe filmmakers when we came to this magical place.”