Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
After brutally murdering a group of high schoolers and putting the entire town on alert, the Blissfield Butcher (Vince Vaughn) sets his sights on high schooler Millie (Kathryn Newton). She gets away after he stabs her, but on Friday the 13th, the pair wake up to find they have swapped bodies. Now Millie, in the Butcher’s body, must confront and stop his murderous rampage, in her body no less, within 24 hours – or their body swap will remain permanent.
I read the Synopsis for Freaky a few months back and was immediately intrigued. An update of Freaky Friday involving a serial killer? And Co-Written/Directed by Christopher Landon, who directed the terrific Happy Death Day films? It was one of those moments where I did not need to hear anything else; I was on board for whatever madness was in store.
So it brings me great joy to say that gambit paid off – I loved just about every minute of Freaky. It playfully mixes Horror and Comedy in ways you do and do not expect, with a few winks and nods to the many inspirations that came before it. It keeps its tongue firmly in cheek for the most part, playing into the ridiculousness of the premise and avoiding becoming overly serious. Landon and Michael Kennedy’s Script is sharp and witty, with some truly hilarious and downright ghastly moments planted within it. There are some scenes that are a bit too goofy for their own good (specifically one involving two characters in a car that you see coming from a mile away and still wish they did not actually go with it), but the lighthearted tone stays consistent and never wavers. I just wish the Third Act was as fine-tuned as everything that came before it.
Landon also takes full advantage of the Film’s R-rating, amping the violence and gore up considerably compared to the Happy Death Day films. I am talking balls-to-the-wall vicious in some cases, with a handful of characters meeting particularly bloody ends. The gorehounds will definitely eat up many of these clever and inventive death scenes (one involving a wine bottle will quickly become an all-timer). And if you are anything like me, you will be greatly disappointed that you could not experience them all with a large opening night crowd screaming and laughing along.
Newton has a blast playing against type and does a great job balancing the physical elements of the role with the more sinister and fun elements. Uriah Shelton is great as Millie’s crush Booker, as are Celeste O’Connor and scene-stealer Misha Osherovich who play Millie’s friends Nyla and Josh. But the real MVP of Freaky is Vaughn, who commits to this outrageous role in ways that will delight and surprise you. He does incredibly well for himself no matter if he is terrifying and menacing as the Butcher, or confused and vulnerable as Millie. It is a great acting showcase for him, and the kind of high concept performance he has really excelled at during this new renaissance of his career.
Freaky is wildly entertaining and a whole lot of gory fun. The way it balances the Body Swap-Comedy and the viciously-violent Horror is great, and the performances are strong across the board. This is one I look forward to revisiting every Friday the 13th for years to come.
Universal Pictures Canada release FREAKY in theatres on Friday, November 13, 2020.
*Please ensure you exercise caution in observing COVID-19 protocols if seeing this in-theatre*.