Director Christopher Landon
Screenplay Christopher Landon, Michael Kennedy
Starring Vince Vaughn, Kathryn Newton, Katie Finneran, Celeste O’Connor, Misha Osherovich, Alan Ruck, Kelly Lamor Wilson, Uriah Shelton
If these were different times, this film would be a huge hit, bringing Vince Vaughn back to the prominence he had in the early 2000’s. Even in this time of pandemic, this film should not be thrown in the waste bin of history. Freaky is a well thought out film that mixes the body changing humor of the Freaky Friday movies and a slightly more grotesque violence of Blumhouse films.
Kathryn Newton is Millie Kessler, a high school student suffering in the loss of her father. She is somehow the object of ridicule at her school, even though she has two supportive friends in Josh and Nyla (Osherovich and O’Connor). Her mother (Finneran) is a lush, her sister (Wilson) an angry police officer.
After she is attacked by the Blissfield Butcher (Vaughn) the weapon he stole from another house actually performs a ritualistic switching of their souls. The next morning they awake in each other’s bodies. This could be bad. Thankfully, due to whip smart performances and a decent script, this is incredibly fun.
Vaughn is remarkable in his juxtaposed position. He has a rare talent for awkward vulnerability that shines here. He has the great instinct to underplay the role, making his predicament feel more real than any special effect could pull off. There are several scenes in the film that are as funny as anything I have seen in half a decade, all due to his chemistry with Josh, Nyla and especially Uriah Shelton, as Millie’s crush.
Newton is clearly having fun here. Her march through every annoying character feels authentic for the fact that she clearly is playing a big evil dude who is not at all used to his new body. The result is attempts at harm that require more ingenuity, when strength is not an option. The one notable exception being the alarmingly easy final dispatching of her jerk of a shop teacher, played against cast by Alan Ruck.
The rest of the cast is charming and, in the case of Oshervich, very funny.
Landon, who wrote much of the Paranormal Activity series and directed both of the better than expected Happy Death Day films, is getting better with each time out. His mixture of cliche with genuine high school norms feels like a celebration, rather than a lesson. He knows we are going to movies to be entertained, not lectured.
Most importantly, if you ever enjoyed Vaughn and wondered where his comic chops have gone in the last decade, look here. His skill at evoking laughter from a mixture of intelligence and physical comedy is near top form.
I took my daughter and her friend to this film, and they both enjoyed it. Age 14 is a strange time. Both kids have seen more horror than I had by their age, yet this one had them covering their eyes more often than not. My daughter gave it 3 stars because of the blood and gore (there is quite a bit).
Her friend said, “I covered my eyes 8 out of 10 times.”
That’s pretty good, if you like horror. It’s even better if you keep your eyes open for the comedy.
(***1/2 out of *****)