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Film Review: ‘Freaky’ Manages to Delightfully Mix Gore and Humor

(from left) Millie Kessler (Kathryn Newton) and The Butcher (Vince Vaughn) in Freaky, co-written and directed by Christopher Landon.

What a wonderfully smart and twisted surprise Freaky is. Especially since I went in with absolutely no expectations, this snuck up and threw me for a delightful loop. Depending on how blind you go into it, you may be expecting either a comedy or a horror film. Obviously, it’s both, seamlessly blending the two. Funnier than Scream, and much gorier, too, it’s just as smart about what it’s sending up. Showing ample love for its cinematic forefathers, it’s impossible not to be won over by the flick. Now, your mileage may vary in regard to how much it wins you over. For me, it was completely and fully, making for one of the season’s more fun experiences.

Freaky thrives by embracing, yet also satirizing, the genres that it’s floating between. The slasher elements look like straight up horror, with all the extreme blood and gore you’d expect. Then, the comedy elements are legitimately funny. Even the idea of using putting the body swap genre into the mold pays off. Whether you anticipated it or not, everything works here.

Filmmaker Christopher Landon and Blumhouse have got a good thing going. Having previously helmed less remarkable fare like Burning Palms and Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (along with the underrated Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse), his recent output has endeared him to smart horror fans. Happy Death Day, as well as the sequel Happy Death Day 2U, have become high concept genre hits. Now, he hits new heights with Freaky.

Universal Pictures

A cross between a body swap film and a slasher picture, we’re introduced first to Barney Garris (Vince Vaughn), better known as the Blissfield Butcher, and then Millie Kessler (Kathryn Newton). The Blissfield Butcher is a slasher as you only see in the movies, wearing a mask, slicing and dicing teens, and just overall causing chaos. When he takes an ancient dagger after rampaging through a party at a mansion, he gets more than he bargained for. At the same time, Millie is having a hard time in High School, getting bullied, having a sad situation at home after the passing of her father, and really only having a small circle of friends. When the Butcher targets her after a football game one night, he catches her and stabs her with the dagger. Unfortunately for them, a curse swaps their body. Now, the killer is inside of a petite blonde girl, while a meek teenager is in a hulking frame. Hilarity ensues (literally).

With 24 hours until the switch is permanent, Millie has to figure out a way to get this giant body undetected through town, as well as into the school, in order to convince her friends Nyla (Celeste O’Connor) and Josh (Misha Osherovich) of her situation. Moreover, the police are searching for him, inconveniencing her to an added degree. To make matters worse, the killer inside her body is taking bloody vengeance on the ones at school that pick on her, whether it’s fellow students, or cruel teachers (Alan Ruck). As a killing spree continues, a showdown is inevitable.

Universal Pictures

Kathryn Newton and Vince Vaughn are having the times of their lives here. Newton has played a normal teen girl before, and plays it well, but when she gets to become the Butcher, she goes to town. Her delight in getting to be evil and spew bile is palpable. Vaughn also is delighting in getting to be a teenager. Sure, when he’s a slasher, in the Jason Voorhees mold, he’s surprisingly imposing, but when he takes the mannerisms of a high schooler, it turns into one of his funniest performances to date. They both hit it out of the park.

Christopher Landon and his co-writer Michael Kennedy push all the right buttons here, script wise. They come up with moments that have your burst out laughing numerous times. Landon’s direction leans into the gore of slasher flicks, which you don’t always see with horror comedies. It may seem like an unusual mix, but let me tell you, it works like gangbusters.

Freaky is an absolute blast. Jason Blum knows his horror, and giving Landon a platform has been one of his best decisions. In a normal year, this would have been a smash hit. It’ll still reach its intended audience, but the breakout success of a regular theatrical release is a temporary thing of the past. Oh well. What matter is that this is a ridiculously effective movie. If you appreciate genre works, give this film a shot and prepare to be blown away.

SCORE: ★★1/2

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Written by Joey Magidson

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