If you’ve ever watched The Hot Chick and thought to yourself, “this would so much better with murder and gore,” director Christopher Landon has a treat for you. Landon, known for horror comedies such as Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse and the Happy Death Day films, is back with another genre mash up. The director’s latest offering, Freaky, takes yet another well worn template—the body switch comedy—and filters it through a horror lens.
Freaky tells the story of Millie (Kathryn Newton), a bullied teenager with low confidence, who accidentally swaps bodies with the Blissfield Butcher (Vince Vaughn). With only twenty four hours before the change becomes permanent, Millie—in the body of six-foot-four Vince Vaughn—has to catch the killer, who is now running around in the body of an unassuming teenage girl.
“Great. We’re going to be killed by Murder Barbie”
The story is simple, and allows for Landon to mine maximum laughs and thrills from the premise. In fact, Freaky is a much better film when it’s just being a body swap comedy with a twist. When it attempts to give its heroine an emotional backstory, it falters. Millie’s troubled home life is half-baked and clunkily written. Thankfully, once the body swap happens, all of that is shoved to the side in favor of humor and gore.
The star of the movie is undeniably Vince Vaughn. Vaughn is no stranger to playing murderous psychopaths–remember that ill-fated Psycho remake?His Butcher is a big, mean motherf*cker—which makes it all the funnier when Vaughn switches gears into teenage girl mode. This film hinges entirely on Vaughn’s performance, and he delivers on all fronts. This is the best Vaughn has been in years. A long take with Vaughn and a teenage boy in the backseat of a car is one of the funniest scenes you’ll see in any movie this year, and has me itching to see the blooper reel on the home release.
Kathryn Newton also plays an integral role in bringing the goofy premise to life, though she has less to work with as the nearly mute serial killer stuck in a teenage girl’s body. Newton brings a great silent physicality to the role, and there’s a good amount of humor to be mined from the Butcher getting used to a smaller body. Unable to rely on brute strength, the Butcher has to get creative. And that makes for some gnarly kills.
“You’re black! I’m gay! We are so dead!”
If you thought Happy Death Day and it’s sequel would have been better with an R-rating, you’re in luck. Freaky delivers plenty of gore, especially in the opening sequence, which sets up the Blissfield Butcher as an unrelenting force of evil. The first kill, involving a wine bottle, elicited a great reaction from the audience at my screening. The gore and practical effects remain visceral and stunning throughout, a welcome change of pace for the typically teen-friendly tone of producer Jason Blum’s films.
Perhaps what will make horror fans favor Freaky over the Happy Death Day films the most are all the nods to horror cinema. The film riffs on countless horror classics, from Halloween to Friday the 13th to The Shining. Landon has always had an obvious love for the genre, but it’s more prevalent here than ever before. There are homages throughout, but nothing so on-the-nose as anything from the recent Star Wars or Marvel films. Landon knows that his audience has the intelligence to pick up on these cues and runs with it.
Freaky is surprisingly good at delivering set pieces filled with tension. The humor never deflates the sense of danger. The mismatched tones are blended damn near seamlessly; this is by far the most effective of Landon’s works in both comedy and horror. It’s a yin and yang tightrope walk, and he pulls it off with a real crowd pleaser.
“Maybe we can try this again. When my hand isn’t as big as your entire face.”
Just like with Happy Death Day, Landon has taken familiar elements and combined them into something fresh and new. As Jessica Rothe elevated that film and its sequel, Vince Vaughn elevates Freaky. Vaughn delivers a golden performance that suggests he can still carry a film. Are we in for a Vaughn-aissance? If Freaky is any indication, that answer is undeniably yes.
In the hellstorm of 2020, I have gravitated toward what I call comfort films. These are movies that are not only of great quality, but leave me with a big smile on my face. Freaky is one such movie, and I can’t wait for a home media release. Christopher Landon has once again proved that he’s got a knack for horror comedy. Vince Vaughn, the fun homages, and the great, gory set pieces make Freaky the best slasher in over twenty years.
Overall Score 4.5/5
Freaky now playing in theaters nationwide.
The Shameless Plugs
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