Freaky

 

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Friday the 13th meets Mean Girls in the smartest, nastiest and funniest horror film of the 

year.


Freaky

Double trouble: Zack Shires and Vince Vaughn

  

In Freaky Friday (1977) a mother and daughter found themselves trapped in each other’s bodies. The film was such a hit that it was remade in 2003. Now comes Freaky, another body-swap comedy and one of the sickest films of the year. It’s Freaky Friday the 13th with a mean twist of Mean Girls. A full-blooded Blumhouse Production, the movie starts on the evening of Wednesday the 11th when four teenagers find themselves inventively dispatched at the hands of a 6’6” serial killer decked out in a Leatherface mask (made of human skin). One poor soul, feeling remorse for having smashed a vintage bottle of wine, is instantly punished as the so-called Butcher of Blissfield pushes another bottle into his mouth until it shatters in his throat. Young audiences today, brought up on a diet of graphic CGI, will no doubt take such scenes in their stride, particularly once the film establishes its narrative device.

 

The next evening, our heroine, shy high-schooler Millie Kessler (Kathryn Newton), is waiting to be picked up by her mom after a homecoming football game. However, Mrs Kessler, recovering from the death of Millie’s father, has taken to the bottle and has passed out. And, on her own and without a ride home, Millie proves easy prey for the Butcher as he emerges out of the darkness prepped for another spell of teenage slaughter. But as Millie and the killer tussle on the ground, the latter stabs his victim with a knife that he stole the previous evening, an ancient Aztec relic with mysterious properties. Somehow, Millie’s spirit is transported into the body of her attacker and his spirit into hers. Now, as a giant man wanted by the police, Millie has to prove that she is innocent, while the Butcher, disguised as a teenage girl, can dispose of who he likes with impunity…

 

Suddenly, Freaky changes gear, merrily skidding back and forth between genres – from gross-out horror to American high school comedy. The twist is that the Butcher of Blissfield is played by Vince Vaughn, a 6’6” actor who made his name in a string of comedies, including Swingers, Old School, Dodgeball and Wedding Crashers. The actor also played Norman Bates in the Psycho remake and has turned his hand at portraying some highly unsavoury, sinister characters. Here, Vaughn is able to place himself in both elements of the film, and even revs up the emotional engine of a scene with him – as Millie – and Millie’s mom (Katie Finneran), which proves quite moving. Indeed, in between the gore and guffaws, Freaky touches on such serious issues as bereavement, bullying, homosexuality, alcohol abuse and, of course, gender fluidity. It’s a wonder that the director Christopher Landon (son of actor Michael Landon) pulls everything off with such pizzazz and panache. Of course, he has dabbled with such cross-over material before (horror meets comedy via fantasy) with the surprisingly enjoyable Happy Death Day (2017), but here he notches it up a level. And, while dropping allusions to old movies along the way, Freaky is likely to become a cult classic in its own right. One also senses a full circle being completed with the presence of Alan Ruck as Millie’s sarcastic wood shop teacher. Ruck is now 65, but it was he who played Cameron Frye, Matthew Broderick’s best friend in the seminal teen comedy Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986). Only the final scene of Freaky feels like a misjudgement, but by then one is willing to forgive it everything. It was a joy to hear so much laughter in a public cinema again.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Vince Vaughn, Kathryn Newton, Katie Finneran, Celeste O'Connor, Misha Osherovich, Alan Ruck, Uriah Shelton, Dana Drori, Ezra Sexton, Melissa Collazo, Zack Shires, Emily Holder, Nicholas Stargel, Kelly Lamor Wilson, Magnus Diehl, Brooke Jaye Taylor, Alonzo Ward, Maria Sager.

 

Dir Christopher Landon, Pro Jason Blum, Screenplay Michael Kennedy and Christopher Landon, Ph Laurie Rose, Pro Des Hillary Andujar, Ed Ben Baudhuin, Music Bear McCreary, Costumes Whitney Anne Adams.

 

Blumhouse Productions/Divide/Conquer-Universal Pictures.

102 mins. USA. 2020. Rel: 2 July 2021. Cert. 15.