Freaky is not only one of the better examples of a body-swap story, it’s also one of the best horror-comedies ever made. It’s consistently hilarious, shockingly violent, and filmmaker Christopher Landon is quick to take note of the formula’s hindrances and correct them.
Co-writing with Bordertown staff writer Michael Kennedy, Landon (best known for his Happy Death Day franchise) creates an unforgettable fantasy that adheres to the usual dynamic between opposite characters suddenly experiencing a (literal) out-of-body experience, but applies a unique spin to the story’s timeframe and characters, especially the inclusion of a shameless maniac known to locals as the Blissfield Butcher (Vince Vaughn). Kathryn Newton (Blockers) plays Millie, a high school wallflower who becomes the Butcher’s latest victim, but suffers at the hand of a cursed dagger stolen by the murderer which causes the switch.
Most body-swap set-ups focus on the primary leads having to live as another person. But, Freaky is mainly interested in reversing the effect, and gives the story a strict timeline of a single day to do so. A wise move considering it’s more compelling watching characters fight against high stakes instead of getting comfortable within their new surroundings (this is why films like The Hot Chick and The Change-Up are duds). This also means Freaky moves swiftly while firing off character jokes that are not only funny, but also find ways to give each actor time in the spotlight.
The leads carry out spot-on impressions of each other’s character. Newton, purposely, underplays as a psychotic, contemplative killer who would much rather stare someone down than to initiate conversation. Vaughn is brilliant as well, completely committing to flamboyant, panicked reluctance without falling completely into a stereotype. Both actors pay close attention to mannerisms and reactions, which is also a tip off as to how well they’re being directed by Landon.
And lastly, while the violence may be too much for some, it’s very refreshing and satisfying to see a movie dive into grotesque practical effects for the film’s kills. They’re exaggerated yet oddly genuine, and manage to surprise us with each spectacle.
Freaky is that rare example of a movie that fulfils its expectations and reinvents the wheel in the making.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie