Film Review – Freaky

Freaky (MA)

Directed by: Christopher Landon

Starring: Kathryn Newton, Vince Vaughn

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

A splattery mix of Friday the 13th’s carnage candy, Scream’s self-aware comedic wit and Freaky Friday’s body-swap silliness, horror/comedy Freaky is a seamless, heady and deliciously fresh blend of genres, tones and tropes from genre mash-up maestro director Christopher Landon.

After giving the time loop Groundhog Day a slashery twist in Happy Death Day, then its delightfully bonkers sequel Happy Death Day 2U a sci-fi heavy context, Landon teams with scribe Michael Kennedy for more blended fun and it is clear the two are on the same warped wavelength.

The hulking Jason Voorhees-like serial killer Barney Garris (Vince Vaughn) is hacking and slashing his way through a collection of small town teens when he finds a magical knife (complete with glowing red eyes on the handle) in the home of one of his unsuspecting victims.

While lurking in the middle of the night on Friday the 13th (appropriately complete with excessive fog) looking for his next kill, the Blissfield Butcher targets alone and reserved high school outcast Millie (Kathryn Newton), who is still dealing with her Father’s death and Mother’s subsequent alcoholism.

But when the Butcher stabs Millie in the middle of the football field with his new weapon of choice, they wake up the next morning in each other’s body.

Millie, now a towering, middle aged serial killer whose face is all over the news, must rally her two friends Nyla (Celeste O’Connor) and sassy gay bestie Josh (Misha Osherovich) for help.

They must get the knife back from police evidence lock-up, reverse the curse and stop the Butcher, now in Millie’s body and walking the high school halls like its a victim buffet, from hacking up more teens.

This deliriously, deliciously fun, gory and funny trip is one of the most invigorating cinema experiences this year.

The respect Kennedy and Landon have for the horror genre is clearly evident, their affection for it is infectious and their approach to film-making is some of the freshest in Hollywood at the moment.

Much like the most successful and entertaining comedy horrors, Freaky takes its time to build suspense with genuinely creepy scenarios, slots in some well timed jump scares, treats hungry gore-hounds with gallons of blood and carnage, all the while making us double over laughing at the witty dialogue.

Not only is the script packed with well-drawn characters, snappy dialogue and pauses for moments of pathos, the film has plenty of visual gags, zips along at a brisk pace and the actors are having a blast.

Its inclusion of diverse characters (a black female best friend and a gay best friend) and woke observations (a brief exchange on post body-swap pronouns) feel far more organic here in Kennedy’s script and achieve more in the way of progression than the recent Black Christmas and The Craft: Legacy, both of which struggled to do when shaping entire scripts around it. As the saying goes: “less is more”.

Vaughn gets to do some of his best work (seriously!); his huge frame making him terrifyingly convincing as the relentless and imposing killer, but also nails it as the flailing teenage girl. Newton matches him with her impressive range as the introvert teen and also as the most challenging part of the role – as the brooding psycho.

Usually in these body swap films, the younger actor having to play the responsible adult is the less fun or showy role of the two (notice that Barbara Harris and Jamie Lee Curtis get the juicier set ups in both Freaky Friday films), but with this clever twist, Newton gets equal footing to Vaughn.

Landon and Kennedy have demonstrated that there are still plenty of avenues and opportunities to take for the slasher sub-genre – all it takes is a little outside of the box thinking. Here’s hoping this divine Hollywood pairing (possibly the most exciting for the genre since Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven) gets to churn out a few more mash-ups.

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