Positioned as a hybrid between a teen slasher horror and a John Hughes high school story, Freaky does what it says on the box.
If you’re after some goofy fun, the occasional scare, a lot of knowing winks and a dash of emotional growth, Freaky is here for it.
Directed by Christopher Landon from a screenplay by Landon and Michael Kennedy, Freaky may blend genres, but it doesn’t subvert them or inject anything new. Instead, it’s content to play up established tropes, knowing the audience will have a perfectly fun time in recognising how they’re deployed.
Vince Vaughn stars as the Blissfield Butcher, a lumbering serial killer so creatively nicknamed for his propensity to murder high schoolers during Homecoming week.
When he tries to kill bullied teen girl Millie (Kathryn Newton) with a mystical knife, the two switch bodies, a la Freaky Friday. The pair wake up in each other’s corporeal bodies the next morning and Millie finds out she has until midnight to change back before it’s made permanent.
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It’s a simple premise that promises a lot of shenanigans, chief among them, Vaughn playing a teenage girl. It’s a side of Vaughn we haven’t seen before but one that is glorious to watch.
It’s surprisingly effective, the way he recalibrates his cadence and inflection, and the looseness of his physicality.
It’s something we’ve seen Jack Black pull off in the Jumanji sequels when he’s embodied by a teen girl character, but the transformation in Vaughn is a further departure from his usual self. You’ve never seen this side of Vaughn before, and you’ll be so glad you did.
It’s rare to see Vaughn inhabit a character that is completely of devoid of a sombre, snarky or mean streak. There’s something so pure about Vaughn’s reactions – as Millie – to the strength a large male body automatically has.
And Vaughn’s on-screen chemistry with Celeste O’Connor and Misha Osherovich (Millie’s friends Nyla and Josh) is really unlaboured. Ditto the dynamics with Millie’s crush Booker (Uriah Shelton).
Vaughn and Shelton’s scenes together as Millie and Booker work better than Newton and Shelton, who, to be fair, didn’t get a lot of screen-time together. But it’s illustrative of how Freaky may actually be stealthily revolutionary in how it normalises gender performance within a body that isn’t biologically the same.
It’s not a deep exploration but, as much as many of those elements are played for comedy, it’s not laughing at it, but with it. And that makes all the difference.
Newton gets to dial up the menace as the Blissfield Butcher even if, in typical Hollywood make-believe, as a doe-eyed petite blonde, she’s far too attractive to have been realistically bullied by all her peers.
The character’s emotional underpinning is her father’s death and the grief that hangs over her family. All that and a confidence crisis is easily resolved with a spin in a sociopath’s body. Sure, it’s pretty lazy plotting but Freaky isn’t trying to be so-called “elevated horror”. It just wants to have a laugh.
In so far as the frights go, Freaky is pretty tame. There are some creative kills that aren’t as gruesome as you think, and it leans into jump scares and expected slasher tropes.
Freaky won’t deliver any nightmares, but it will deliver a good time.
Freaky is in cinemas now
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