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Freaky Review

November 15, 2020 | Posted by Joseph Lee
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Freaky Review  

*Kathryn Newton as Millie
*Vince Vaughn as The Blissfield Butcher
*Celeste O’Connor as Nyla
*Misha Osherovich as Josh
*Uriah Shelton as Booker
*Katie Finneran as Paula
*Dana Drori as Charlotte
*Alan Ruck as Mr. Fletcher

Story: After swapping bodies with a deranged serial killer, a young girl in high school discovers she has less than 24 hours before the change becomes permanent.

On paper, Freaky shouldn’t work. In general, the Freaky Friday concept has been done to death. A grown man has changed places with a teenage girl before in The Hot Chick. The idea of an innocent person switching places with a serial killer was done in an episode of Fear Itself (which no one likely saw). On top of that, one could argue that Vince Vaughn hasn’t had a hit in years, even if he has been doing some solid under-the-radar stuff for a while now.

This is all true, and yet it was put into the very capable hands of Blumhouse and director Christopher Landon, who previously made magic together with another tired trope in Happy Death Day, which was Groundhog Day as a slasher. Honestly with as good as that was and as good as this turned out to be, I’m 100% on board if they do The Shaggy Dog as a werewolf movie. You can have that for free, Hollywood.

So yes, this is a body swap movie and given the hit or miss nature of those types of movies, it’s great to say that this one works well. All or most of the jokes land, especially if you’re a fan of awkward humor, sight gags and occasional slapstick. Putting that all within the trappings of a slasher movie just makes it that much sweeter. Some of the jokes are simple (see Kathryn Newton grab her breasts because a man is in her body! See Vince Vaughn run like a stereotypical girl!) but they do tend to knock it out of the park as the film goes on.

I think the biggest reason the jokes work is the same reason that there’s actually genuine tension toward the end. Freaky is a slasher comedy with a heart. Compare it to Shaun of the Dead, which is still one of the standards among zombie comedies. It had the jokes and the gore, but it also had characters the viewer genuinely cared about. It’s the same thing here. I actually had the feeling certain characters were going to die and had grown to like them, so there was a bit of suspense there.

So the jokes are obvious and the story concept is familiar, but it’s a clever script so it knows how to accentuate the positives and downplay the negatives. The script takes time building up the relationships and making them more than stock, which is honestly more than the slashers it’s paying homage to would do. Even the gay best friend is more than just “gay best friend”, gets some of the best jokes and has development. The fact that it can tell the main story, develop the characters, be funny and have a bit of suspense all in a tightly-paced 101 minutes is a testament to the talents of those involved.

If you’re thinking this is just a teen comedy, well, you’d be right, but it also wears it’s horror cred on its sleeve. Up until the body switch happens, Vince Vaughn is essentially playing Jason Voorhees. On paper that sounds like a stupid idea, but then when you watch, you see it includes the mask, the body language, even the head tilt. The first ten minutes are basically the closest you’re going to get to a Friday the 13th movie for the foreseeable future. Then if you throw in references to movies like Hellraiser and nasty, R-rated kills with a variety of tools, you have a very solid slasher.

Then the movie turns on its head and Vaughn’s back to comedy, but playing a role that goes against the usual type of character he’d play. As a fan of his, it was nice to see him in something that was legitimately funny again. That’s not taking anything away from co-lead Kathryn Newton either, who legitimately turns in her best performance ever. She’s honestly just as funny in the moments when she’s playing a horror movie villain in the body of a 5’5 teenager.

Freaky juggles so many balls in the air and outside of the minor slip ups (could have done without yet another beautiful actress being portrayed as homely), it’s just a great time at the movies. It’s at least as enjoyable as Ready or Not and sometimes horror fans need to be reminded that the genre can still be fun. And given the strange times we live in, fun movies are almost a necessity.

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Freaky works on multiple levels. It's a funny comedy. It's a slasher film with stakes and moments of suspense. It's somehow a feel-good movie about inner strength and empowerment. I'm amazed I enjoyed it as much as I did, but perhaps this is the kind of movie the horror genre needs right now. Definitely give this one a shot.

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Freaky, Joseph Lee