Horror has been a fascinating genre to watch over the last few years. Filmmakers like Jordan Peele and Jennifer Kent have stepped onto the scene, easily demonstrating just how interesting and groundbreaking the often traditional form can be. While there will always be some duds, interesting content keeps hitting screens with the upcoming horror comedy Freaky. After an decidedly unique trailer, will the movie shine? Or are all the good parts in the trailer? Well, here’s what you need to know.
Freaky follows Millie (Kathryn Newton) a high school senior. Like so many of us during those years, she doesn’t quite fit in anywhere. Life isn’t easy for those who don’t aren’t card carrying members of the popular cliques. Things get even more… freaky… when she’s attacked by a serial killer known as the Blissfield Butcher (Vince Vaughn). However, just when things seem over for the ‘final girl’, the two swap bodies and are plunged into a cat and mouse game of the slasher variety as they try to switch themselves back. Misha Osherovich, Celeste O’Connor and Uriah Shelton co-star in the movie. Christopher Landon directs Freaky from a script he co-wrote with Michael Kennedy.
There’s the potential for some minor spoilers from here on out. You’ve been warned.
Starting right at the top, the performers absolutely shine in selling this interesting premise. Newton and Vaughn both excel. Vaughn in particular, looks to be having quite a lot of fun in his portrayal. He is over-the-top, outrageous and even a little campy. However, it works. In fact, he needs to be more than a little quirky in order to sell this plot. At the same time, Celeste O’Connor and Misha Osherovich both stand apart, making the usual (and often disposable) best friend roles surprisingly entertaining. They carry a large chunk of the humor and have a number of laugh-out-loud moments propelling the movie forward.
Kennedy and Landon’s script is by far and away the high point of this movie, crafting a tone which manages to be not only scary, but also very funny. The body switching plot is not a new one (Freaky Friday, anyone?). However, when looking at the scope of the horror genre, Freaky feels fresh and original. And surprisingly, it works on all fronts. As mentioned above, the performers easily handle the humor. At the same time though, the scares never suffer. The kills throughout are graphic and often difficult to watch– particularly one involving a buzz saw. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination…
However, what particularly surprises throughout Freaky is how one single change (in this case, the body swap) completely morphs pre-established and long-standing audience expectations of the horror genre. All of a sudden, the hulking brute is a sympathetic figure, and the cute, white, perky teenager is the feared other.
The script knows these horror conventions and isn’t afraid to play with them. Early into the carnage, Osherovich’s Josh says to O’Connor’s Nyla, “You’re black! I’m gay! We’re both so dead”. He’s right. So often, the characters who identify with these (and other) marginalized groups are the first to die. In making the choice to not only establish Josh and Nyla as main characters, but also to call out this trope, Freaky crafts a rebellion against these age old horror conventions..
In taking all this into consideration, Freaky feels almost postmodern in its takedown of not only pre-established horror movie conventions, but at the same time, social constructs. The very act of swapping the killer and the “final girl” pulls the audience back from a symbol that remains a lingering constant in the horror genre, even decades after the first “slasher” films. At the same time, Freaky uses this for a very interesting takedown of pre-constructed labels. At one point, the characters stop using pronouns, because they just don’t work. What the rest of the world sees on the surface doesn’t match up with reality. This is used very effectively to inject humor into the script; however, it is also an easy and interesting way to make this very important argument on screen.
All in all, Freaky is quite a welcomed entry into the horror comedy cannon. The film brings together a whip smart script with magnetic and entertaining performances to make a slasher movie that’s an utter joy to watch. Fans of Landon’s recent works, like Happy Death Day are sure to find this one entertaining, as are those looking for a fun, scary movie to watch this weekend.
Freaky hits theaters around the country Friday the 13th of November.
This review was originally posted 11/12/20