PG Score: 6.75/10
Freaky opened in theaters on 11/13/20
Freaky is a breath of fresh air in the typically repetitive world of body-swap movies. It playfully experiments with previously untapped potential and carves out a well-earned place in the silly subgenre. Returning to his bread and butter, Writer/Director Christopher Landon (Happy Death Day) mixes horror and comedy and capitalizes on a talented cast to deliver a surprisingly fun film to audiences.
The movie follows high school student Millie Kessler (Kathryn Newton) in a race against the clock after switching bodies with a serial killer known as the Blissfield Butcher (Vince Vaughn). Having only 24 hours before the change becomes permanent, she enlists the help of her two best friends to reverse the process.
The consciousness exchange occurs early on, which helps the movie maximize levity throughout its 101-minute runtime. Vince Vaughn is electric as the “Millie-fied” version of The Blissfield Butcher. His depiction of teenage girl mannerisms and constantly terrified reactions are frighteningly convincing. Millie's initial realization when she wakes up in her 6’5”, massive, masculine frame is hilariously captured by his comedic genius. The funnier segments are solidified by his comic competence and a lesser actor would simply be unable to garner the laughs that he does. Vaughn is one of the main highlights and the other is his body-swapping counterpart, Kathryn Newton.
During the relatively brief exposition, it becomes apparent that Millie is somewhat of an outcast at school. Apart from her bond with friends Josh (Misha Osherovich) and Nyla (Celeste O’Connor), she is awkward and bullied by her classmates on a regular basis. She is also suffering from the loss of her father and dealing with struggles at home with her mom (Katie Finneran).
Newton portrays the relatively isolated character with finesse as she conveys much of the internal turmoil through facial expressions and demeanor instead of words. After the Blissfield Butcher hijacks her being, the actress flaunts her range. The serial killer-inhabited Millie is even quieter than the normal one, but the silence is accompanied by an appropriately devious aura. The Butcher makes the most of his minimal dialogue with biting one-liners and icy threats directed at the bullies tormenting his current form. He fires off sinister smirks and chilling stares at anyone who crosses his path. All of this is skillfully expressed by Newton as she flips the switch without missing a beat.
Freaky boasts a strong supporting cast to back the star power of the leads. The standout is Misha Osherovich, who plays Millie’s friend, Josh. He is the source of a significant amount of the most chuckle-inducing dialogue, as his delivery is right on time at every juncture. Alan Ruck’s performance as Millie’s cruel teacher, Mr. Fletcher is also worth commenting on. The character’s snide remarks, constant judgment, and general malice are all impressively displayed. For someone who is typically cast in more mild-mannered roles, it is refreshing to see Ruck’s versatility.
Gifted with a restricted rating courtesy of the horror heads at Blumhouse, Landon really ups the ante in the slasher department. In an opening sequence that showcases the depth granted by that freedom, Freaky makes a blood-soaked splash into the realm of hard-R ratings. The creativity of the violence is something to behold as is the foreshadowing that leads to the innovative brutality. There are multiple occasions where the Blissfield Butcher (after occupying Millie’s body) exchanges choice words with a bully or has a run-in with the spiteful Fletcher. Rather than immediately resorting to a quick kill, Landon wisely bides his time and sows seeds of savagery that are sure to blossom at the right moment.
The writing is entertaining throughout most of the film thanks to sharp humor that plays to the strengths of the cast. The film is at its best when it does not take itself too seriously but runs into trouble during some of the heartfelt interactions. Many of the serious conversations feel a bit forced and drawn-out. Moreover, they stall an otherwise well-paced storyline. Another area that is a cause for concern is the film’s occasionally jarring shifts between horror and comedy. There are scenes where the line between the two genres is too rigidly drawn and results in a few shaky transitions. Fortunately, these blows are lessened by the engaging comedy that is present throughout. The jokes are consistently funny and the chemistry between actors makes them even funnier.
A Good-Not-Great Mixture
Christopher Landon found success with the quirky Happy Death Day in 2017 and channels a similar hybrid energy in his latest outing. Freaky has a few too many missteps that prevent it from reaching the upper echelon of horror comedies, but its wildly amusing performances, vicious slasher action, and effective humor make it a fun romp well worth checking out.
PG Score: 6.75/10
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