Director: Christopher Landon
Writer: Michael Kennedy, Christopher Landon
Producer: Jason Blum
Stars: Vince Vaughn, Kathryn Newton, Katie Finneran, Celeste O¡¯Connor, Misha Osherovich, Alan Ruck, Uriah Shelton, Dana Drori
A cursed dagger causes a teenage girl to swap bodies with a serial killer.
Serial killer. Teen girl. Magic dagger. An unsuccessful stabbing causes the polar opposite pairing to swap bodies. They have 24 hours to reverse the curse or else the switcheroo becomes permanent. What else does anyone need to know about this to-the-point premise?
Simplicity is the secret to ¡°Freaky¡¯s¡± success. Should you ever need a textbook example of fluid film structure, particularly for a crowd-pleasing comedic thriller, this is it. Director Christopher Landon and co-writer Michael Kennedy¡¯s snappy script barely has an ounce of fat to slow it down or give it an unattractive bulge. Every element introduced directly services story. Side characters deceptively appear disposable in singular scenes only to bound back a second time to pay off gags you didn¡¯t see set up. ¡°Freaky¡± stays speedy with inventively gory kills staged with whiplash-inducing momentum to make them feel outrageously fantastical. Amidst a wealth of self-aware slasher savagery, the movie makes time for emotional moments that are surprisingly sweet without dampening action. Whether it¡¯s being sassy, silly, stabby, or even sentimental, the breeziness behind ¡°Freaky¡± makes the movie¡¯s mixture an easy treat to swallow.
The other key ingredient in ¡°Freaky¡¯s¡± flavorful recipe for fright-spiked fun is Vince Vaughn. Some ado has been made of the actor¡¯s entertaining embodiment of a high school girl in a man¡¯s big body, with some swooning fans baking up imaginary Oscar buzz. Awards of that caliber aren¡¯t in any realm of possibility, though that¡¯s not to say Vaughn¡¯s role isn¡¯t a winner.
Vaughn¡¯s performance is still on the shtick-y side. Giving himself the gait of an inexperienced girl trying to maneuver a bulky frame, which is oddly ironic since main character Millie also performs as the varsity football mascot, Vaughn runs in a non-masculine yet not necessarily effeminate manner where his elbows suddenly become rubber. Shrill screams and manic panicking join his circus act repertoire too. Vaughn does take it down several notches when quieter scenes require subtler touches. Just know that how well you take to ¡°Freaky¡± directly correlates to affinity for Vince Vaughn¡¯s rapid speaking style and physical pratfalls. If Vaughn doesn¡¯t usually amuse you, neither will ¡°Freaky.¡±
A knock-on effect of Vince Vaughn¡¯s exaggerated scenery eating is that co-star Kathryn Newton gets a comparative short shrift by having to play a silent stalker in a young woman¡¯s body. While Vaughn juices up on Jolt cola and goes for broke, Newton tilts her head down, tilts her eyes up, and walks like a slightly slower Terminator. She gets to turn the tables on her various bullies in thoroughly menacing fashion, except through no fault of her own, her material doesn¡¯t demand the multifaceted pop of her counterpart¡¯s.
The film doesn¡¯t rely heavily on typical body swapping plot points, e.g. ¡°stranger in a strange person¡± navigation, getting other people to believe what¡¯s happening, and finding a way to set the situation straight. You accept the idea immediately because it¡¯s the movie you signed up for. Unconcerned with the facts behind their fiction, Landon and Kennedy don¡¯t devote a single second more than is essential for explanations, with charming characters coming to accept the impossible in record time. The countdown clock keeps pressing ¡°Freaky¡± to blow by setup stuff only for quick jokes so the nimble runtime can focus on meatier matters.
Some of the best bits employ body swap trappings to explore altered territory for tropes. When his alarmed mother asks about Millie being tied up and gagged in their dining room, Millie¡¯s gay guy friend Josh tries to come out as straight with a cover story about kinky role-play. Not willing to miss a moment to express his true feelings, Millie¡¯s crush Booker makes the gutsy choice to have a romantic heart-to-heart complete with kissing even though Millie is in Vince Vaughn¡¯s body. ¡°Freaky¡± toys with irreverence regularly, and flirting with cheekiness pays dividends almost every time.
It¡¯s a shame ¡°Freaky¡± ends on its only bad sequence. The awkward ending seems like something rushed into a rework after a focus group screening, or a scene in need of a focus group to identify that it doesn¡¯t work. An empowerment message lurks underneath this epilogue, yet the clunky action accompanying it concludes ¡°Freaky¡± on a quizzical note. At least it¡¯s not enough of an offense to override the smoothly satisfying taste up until that point.
A spiritual sister to ¡°Happy Death Day¡± (review here) in more ways than one, ¡°Freaky¡± affirms Christopher Landon and his collaborators have a distinctive corner all to themselves in the category of hip, humorous horror. ¡°Freaky¡± doesn¡¯t worry about birthing a franchise, filling a preordained spot on a studio¡¯s slate, or phoning it in. The movie does its own thing, everyone has a good time doing it, and that energy carries over to viewers enjoying the madcap mania at home.
Review Score: 75