Released: 12th November
Seen: 12th November
In 2017 Christopher Landon brought us the movie Happy Death Day, a movie that asked the very simple question “What if Groundhog Day was a horror film?”. The result was one of the most fun slasher films in recent memory, which was followed up by Happy Death Day 2U which was also a lot of fun. This filmmaker has stumbled upon a great little mini-genre that he is clearly going to milk for all it’s worth… take a classic comedy with a mystical element and turn it into a horror movie. Proof that this works? The joyfully fun film Freaky.
Freaky tells the story of Millie (Kathryn Newton), a slightly awkward teenage girl who is still coping with the death of her father. She’s grown distant from her older sister and her mother has turned into an alcoholic, meaning Millie really has to lean on her friends, Josh (Misha Oshervich) and Nyla (Celeste O’Connor) for support.
One night after a big football game while Millie is waiting for a ride home, she ends up being chased by the Blissfield Butcher (Vince Vaughn) and stabbed with a mystical dagger. The next morning (coincidentally, Friday the 13th) Millie wakes up in the body of the Blissfield Butcher and learns that she has until midnight to switch them back or else she’s going to be in the body of the Blissfield Butcher forever.
From the moment the film opens, Freaky plants its flag as a copy of the silly 80s slashers that people used to love and it doesn’t drop it for a moment. It’s broad and over the top from the moment it begins, filled with some incredible gore that almost feels like the director decided he wanted to make up for the lack of gore in his previous films (since both of them involved a time loop meaning we never got to actually see the gory effects of each death) and embracing all the insanity that goes with that classic slasher style. Freaky knows exactly what it is, accepting the inherent silliness of the concept and leaning into it.
From the quickfire dialogue to the moments of broad physical comedy, it maintains a tone that makes for a good time.What helps Freaky is that this cast is genuinely fantastic, in particular Kathryn Newton who you can tell is having the most fun when she gets to be the Blissfield Butcher. Her performance basically carries the film and, considering that she’s playing a character who didn’t really get much setup to begin with, she makes it work with how committed she is to this evil character that she’s been gifted.
Vince Vaughn is also surprisingly good, it takes him a little while to really find his footing as a teenage girl but once he does there’s a lot to enjoy. He throws himself fully into every situation he’s given, either when he has to be terrifying or just being the teenage girl sitting 3 feet away from her biggest crush and trying not to freak out about it.
The supporting cast is also great, mostly everyone is playing a broad stereotype but that’s also fairly obviously a style choice that works with the film itself. They’re interesting and fun stereotypes of the vapid popular girl, the gay best friend, the asshole teacher etc. etc. Most of them really are just there to eventually be part of the body count so giving them quick over the top caricature characters to work with was a good choice to make here.
I do wish that we’d had just a little more time at the start of Freaky to set up both our lead characters. One of the big things about a Freaky Friday-esque movie is that the audience is meant to believe that we’re witnessing two people switch personalities, which is why these films usually utilise broad characters with instantly identifiable traits in order to help sell the idea. So when we really don’t get much time with the Butcher, and all of it is him basically doing a Jason Voorhees impression, it makes it weird when they swap and he gets to be a little more chatty.
It also means we don’t get to know much about Millie, leading to moments where she’ll try to prove who she is to someone by dropping some information and it’s the first time the audience has heard of it, so it takes a minute to catch on what’s going on. There’s a moment where Millie just starts reciting a poem that she wrote in order to prove that she is who she says she is… except the audience didn’t know she wrote poems so it took a long time for it to click what she was doing and let it have the required impact.
Fortunately though, even though Freaky is not a perfect body swap movie, it’s got a good enough handle on what it’s doing. Every scene with Millie (Ok the Butcher but he’s using her body, this is really hard to explain in text form!) about to murder someone is genuinely fun, just seeing this 5 foot and change girl try to overpower men at least a foot taller than her and not quite getting it right is hilarious, especially when she figures out how to actually do it properly and we get some good practical gore out of it.
I believe my favourite moment though involved Millie’s crush, Booker (Uriah Shelton) because when he finally gets to learn about the body swap he’s totally still into Millie… while she’s in the Butcher’s body, so we basically get a gay appearing relationship that’s actually meant to represent a straight couple, and it’s played dead straight. Sure there’s comedic value in the moment but it’s also genuinely sweet, and kind of fits with the films very gay sensibility.
Freaky is just a ton of fun from start to finish. While it might not be perfectly set up, it plays every card it’s got with flourish and has a lot of fun while doing it. It’s big and bold and never has a dull moment. As a follow up to Happy Death Day, it’s one hell of a good time that makes me wonder what other classic family films this director is going to turn into a Slasher film. I can’t wait to see what comes next from this creator, cos so far it’s just a guaranteed good time