Christopher Landon’s Freaky is one of the films that got delayed and delayed and delayed again due to the on-going pandemic. Already released in most countries, the UK is finally being treated to this horror comedy starring Vince Vaughn and Kathryn Newton and there’s no denying it’s always exciting to see an original horror film that isn’t afraid to just have fun on the big screen.
Millie (Kathryn Newton) is your regular awkward American high school girl. She’s by no means popular and after a football game, while Millie is waiting for her mother, the infamous and feared Blissfield Butcher attacks her with a mystical knife that makes them swap bodies. Millie wakes up as the butcher and – you guessed it – the butcher wakes up in the body of a petite high schooler. Chaos ensues.
Freaky is a film that carries its influences on its sleeve. From its first moments, Landon heavily borrows and at times straight up parodies Friday The 13th, including borrowing its instantly recognizable title font as well as using similar sound design when introducing the Blissfield Butcher. It’s fun and fans of the genre and F13 in general will get a kick out of it, but as the film goes on, it becomes apparent that Freaky isn’t able to craft a unique identity of its own, instead opting to lovingly play homage to other horror films.
This isn’t a bad thing, per se. It’s all done with clear, genuine love for the genre, but whereas most horror films are so serious, and directors do their hardest to traumatize the audience, mentally and emotionally, Freaky feels like a breath of fresh air with its much more fun premise. And there isn’t a single second in Freaky that isn’t stupidly entertaining and perfectly watchable.
Vince Vaughn clearly gets to have a lot of fun playing a teenage girl stuck in this huge man’s body, but his performance is a little obvious. He plays Millie as strangely camp although Kathryn Newton played the role much straighter and while it’s funny, it just doesn’t feel right. Newton, however, is the standout here, infusing her body swap with so much menace, it’s equally thrilling as it is chilling to watch.
In terms of gore, Freaky mostly delivers. The kills are inventive, but weirdly short. Landon, best known for the delightful Happy Death Day films, seems invested and interested in the spectacle of violence and the bloodletting, but the kills are over too quickly, they don’t register, and you don’t feel their brutality to the fullest. The film’s opening sequence is fantastic and includes the best kills, by far, but nothing after seems to reach that level of pure adrenaline and tension as well as satisfying gore.
Landon directs Freaky with confidence, but the film feels rushed. We often complain that films are too long, but Freaky is the rare case where it feels like it could benefit from extra 15 minutes to develop its characters and help form a more emotional connection to the narrative. Visually the film is a delight, especially in its use of light. Cinematographer Laurie Rose creates a lot of contrasts and constantly plays with our expectations when it comes to jump scares. Freaky never really manages to terrify you, just entertain you, but that might be enough.
Freaky is a fun way to spend 100 minutes and it might even attract a small cult following of its own, but it feels weighed down by its influences. Featuring fun performances from Vaughn and Newton and even a surprising amount of heart to its otherwise predictable narrative, Freaky is a fun return to the 80s slashers and a film with endless re-watch potential.
Freaky is in UK cinemas from July 2