Director: Christopher Landon
Cast: Vince Vaughn, Kathryn Newton, Celeste O’Connor, Misha Osherovich, Uriah Shelton, Dana Drori, Katie Finneran, Alan Ruck
Runtime: 1 hr 42 mins
Rating: M18 (Violence and Coarse Language)
Released By: UIP
Opening Day: 12 November 2020
Synopsis: This November prepare to get Freaky with a twisted take on the body-swap movie when a teenage girl switches bodies with a relentless serial killer. Seventeen-year-old Millie Kessler (Kathryn Newton, Blockers, HBO’s Big Little Lies) is just trying to survive the bloodthirsty halls of Blissfield High and the cruelty of the popular crowd. But when she becomes the newest target of The Butcher (Vince Vaughn), her town’s infamous serial killer, her senior year becomes the least of her worries. When The Butcher’s mystical ancient dagger causes him and Millie to wake up in each other’s bodies, Millie learns that she has just 24 hours to get her body back before the switch becomes permanent and she’s trapped in the form of a middle-aged maniac forever. The only problem is she now looks like a towering psychopath who’s the target of a city-wide manhunt while The Butcher looks like her and has brought his appetite for carnage to Homecoming.
With no less ingenuity than ‘Happy Death Day’ and ‘Happy Death Day 2U’, ‘Freaky’ sees director Christopher Landon score yet another hilariously entertaining horror comedy through bending genres. Indeed, Landon, who co-wrote the script with Michael Kennedy, makes it blatant that his latest is a cross between the classic body-swap comedy ‘Freaky Friday’ (remember the Disney movie starring Lindsay Lohan?) and the classic slasher horror ‘Friday the 13th’.
In fact, Landon makes the latter clear right from the get-go, as Vince Vaughn’s masked killer named the Blissfield Butcher makes his return clear to a quartet of hard-partying teens who so happen to be discussing the homecoming-dance murders he had committed in the 1990s. Depending on whether you’ve bought your ticket to the M18 or NC16 version in cinemas, you may or may not get to see the gleeful image of one of the kid’s head getting impaled from either side by a broken tennis racket.
It Is utterly tongue-in-cheek, not least when the scene of a screaming teen whose head is being smashed between the seat and the cover of a toilet bowl is lined up right before that of another female teen bent over on the front of a car while having sex with her boyfriend. That’s the spirit behind the simple yet inventive premise of the Butcher switching bodies with the high-school misfit Millie Kesslar (Kathryn Newton), after she survives an attack by him using an ancient Aztec ritual dagger which he had stolen from the home of one of his previous victims.
On one hand, the body-swap allows Newton-as-the-Butcher to turn the tables on those in school who had picked on her before, including the self-absorbed bully Ryler (Melissa Collazo) and her wood shop teacher Mr. Fletcher (Alan Ruck); and on the other, it allows Vaughn-as-Millie to grow into the confidence she needs to take on high school and even the rest of her life. Both however have 24 hours on – you’ve guessed it – Friday the 13th to reverse their roles or risk being stuck in each other’s bodies forever (so goes the curse translated by their high-school Spanish teacher).
It’s been a while since Vaughn has been in such an out-and-out comedic role, but the actor who starred in such hits as ‘Old School’, ‘Dodgeball’ and ‘Wedding Crashers’ proves he is still comedy gold. In particular, Vaughn has most fun trying to convince Millie’s best friends Nyla (Celeste O’Connor) and Joshua (Misha Osherovich) that he is really she inside; a scene where he busts out their secret handshake is simply a hoot. Even as he leans into the whimsy of playing a teenager, Vaughn never lets it slide into caricature, and there are a couple of brilliantly incongruous moments that he pulls off with a surprising amount of heart.
Unshackled from the usual awkward teen roles, Newton dives into the role of a psychotic serial killer with absolute glee. It’s a good thing Landon doesn’t exaggerate her physicality, so after realising how it isn’t quite so easy to throw his victims around, the Butcher-within-Millie opts for creative use of nearby objects, such as a locker-room cryotherapy chamber, a buzzsaw and a dusty wine bottle. Like we said, if you’d opted for the M18 version, you’re probably going in expecting the kills to be gruesome, and we’re quite sure you’ll be satisfied by what Landon has staged.
On his part, Landon’s by-now familiarity with the slasher genre gives him the confidence to choreograph a number of effective and unexpectedly elaborate kills; but what truly impresses is how he has perfected mixing sly comedy and high horror into an art. If he had demonstrated that he had a knack playing with genre conventions, ‘Freaky’ proves how truly good he is at it, such that the eventual mish-mash comes off witty, heartfelt and yet thrilling at the same time. It is not easy maintaining tonal control, but Landon pulls it off with aplomb.
And with ‘Freaky’, Blumhouse yet again shows how they have cornered the market on such low-budget horror fare over the past decade. With a clever wink-wink, ‘Freaky’ manages to feel original, even if it always makes everything old new again. As odd and incompatible as these descriptors may be next to one another, ‘Freaky’ is the sweetest, funniest and bloodiest body-swap slasher comedy we’ve seen, and we’d dare say one of the best times we’ve had in the cinema this year.
(A blatant combo of 'Freaky Friday' and 'Friday the 13th', this genre-bending slasher cum body-swap comedy is one of the best times you'll have at the cinema this year)
Review by Gabriel Chong