As a fan of all of Christopher Landon’s horror films, I was already in the bag for his latest cinematic endeavor, Freaky, sight unseen. Within the span of just six years, he’s proven that he’s one of the most innovative and fun-loving filmmakers working within the genre space, and with Freaky, Landon demonstrates once again that he has an uncanny ability to create entertaining horror hybrids that not only celebrate everything that we love about genre storytelling, but also elevate those elements by finding new ways to explore them through the magic of moviemaking.
Make no mistake about it, Freaky is easily one of the best supernatural slashers to come along in this era of modern horror, that perfectly blends together horror, humor, and heart seamlessly. Freaky features a pair of killer performances from both Kathryn Newton and Vince Vaughn, as well as a slew of ingenious kills, a clever and energetic script by Landon and Michael Kennedy, and a handful of horror references that left me grinning from ear to ear the entire time.
Freaky follows a high schooler named Millie (Newton) who has a lot on her plate: her mom (Katie Finneran) is struggling with alcoholism after the death of her dad, her overbearing cop sister buries herself in her job as a means to emotionally distance herself from what’s happening at home, and Millie doesn’t exactly fit in at school, either. As if all that wasn’t bad enough, one night after her school’s Homecoming Weekend football game, Millie is attacked by the Blissfield Butcher (Vaughn) and as he stabs her with an ancient ritual dagger, weird stuff happens, leaving them both with a wound and unsure of what just went down.
When both Millie and the Butcher wake up the next day (on a Friday the 13th no less), it’s obvious that they have switched bodies, and the clock is ticking for Millie to find the notorious killer who’s hanging out in her skin so they can switch back before it’s too late and they’re forever stuck in this very Vice Versa-esque scenario.
As someone who cannot resist a good body swap story in horror (Shocker, Fallen, and Jason Goes to Hell are three that I immensely enjoy—and yes, I do actually dig Jason Goes to Hell, so there), Freaky was just a total freaking blast that hits all the narrative beats you want from these types of stories, but then also pushes its story into some new directions, giving viewers a few surprises to look forward to along the way.
In terms of the two main characters in Freaky, both Newton and Vaughn deliver incredibly nuanced performances that rely on a great deal of physical acting, but also go quite a bit deeper as well. Undoubtedly, watching Vaughn prance around as a bubbly high school girl is downright hysterical and helps elevate the comedic elements of the story, but I think Newton also deserves a great deal of praise for her more subtle and sullen portrayal of a sadistic serial killer dealing with all the B.S. that comes along with the teenage experience in a very blunt and brutal fashion. Newton does “scary” very well, and it’s not easy to create characters that you’re both rooting for and rooting against, but Newton and Vaughn in Freaky seemingly do it effortlessly here.
Also, I’m a heterosexual woman, so I hope I’m saying this right, but there are some aspects of Freaky that explore sexuality in a very different way than we’ve ever seen in a mainstream horror movie, and I cannot help but applaud how Landon and Kennedy, as the film’s writers, approach this concept here. There’s a moment in particular that’s very sweet and wonderful, and doesn’t exist to try and elicit a cheap laugh or revel in any awkwardness either, and I wish more films were brazen enough to tackle this topic the way Freaky does.
Another reason Freaky rules as hard as it does is due to its gore-iously gratuitous kills that do not hold back. If you were concerned that Landon’s latest might fall a bit lighter on the side of horror like Happy Death Day did, have no fear, because the Blissfield Butcher amasses an impressive body count here, with a few of the kills feeling like they were homages to other slasher slayings (I didn’t have my notebook with me to take notes, but two of Freaky’s deaths that have stuck with me since the screening seemed to be tipping their hats to Jason X and 2008's Prom Night). That being said, it doesn’t feel like Landon and company were interested in doing the same old, same old here, so he actually puts his own twist on some of those kills, taking them over the top in a way that made me cackle in delight.
It’s also worth noting that the pacing in Freaky is fantastic as well; the story moves along really well, and even when the film slows down to give us an emotional moment shared between Millie (as the Butcher) and her mom, it doesn’t drag anything down, either, and I love that for a movie that nails both the comedic and genre aspects so well, it also takes the time to get us invested in these characters on an emotional level. Both Kennedy and Landon clearly put a lot of affection into this script and you can feel it in every single scene in Freaky.
Between Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, both Happy Death Day films, and now Freaky, Landon has quickly risen to my list of must-see filmmakers these days. I really enjoy the fact that even when he’s working with tropes or characters we’ve all seen a number of times before in horror, he always finds a way to bring a sense of reinvention and ingenuity to them, resulting in movie-watching experiences that feel smart and bring something new to the table, too.
Movie Score: 4.5/5