11th Dec2020

‘Freaky’ Review

by Jason Brigger

Stars: Vince Vaughn, Kathryn Newton, Celeste O’Connor, Misha Osherovich, Katie Finneran, Dana Drori | Written by Michael Kennedy, Christopher Landon | Directed by Christopher Landon

Freaky is one of the few major motion pictures that has been released in the last few months of the year (at least in the United States) and is a fun mix of Freaky Friday and Mean Girls with a dash of the Scream franchise. Vince Vaughn looks like he is having fun playing not only a serial killer but also a 17-year-old high schooler while the rest of the cast, including Misha Osherovich in a breakout role, does a solid job creating a fun and unique film.

Freaky takes the cliché of two completely different types of characters and have them swap bodies. In this case, the two characters, Millie (Kathryn Newton), a shy high school teenager, and the Butcher (Vince Vaughn), a serial killer that is terrorizing the town of Blissfield, magically switch bodies when the serial killer stabs Millie with an ancient mystical dagger. Millie must not only convince her two friends, Josh Detmer (Misho Osherovich) and Nyla (Celeste O’Connor), she isn’t the Butcher, but also recruit them to help her stop the real serial killer while also getting her own body back within 24 hours or the curse will never be lifted. Along the way, the body count rises, not as much as you would think (see below), and a sweet backstory evolves between Millie and her mother (Katie Finneran) and sister (Dana Drori) that is not often found in most horror films.

The Good:

  • Misho Osherovich. As mentioned above, Osherovich’s role as Josh Detmer, one of Millie’s best friends, steals the film. Not only does Josh have some of the funniest lines, but he also plays the role of “Randy” from the Scream franchise by pointing out common sense logic that is usually absent in horror films. Another positive is the character, and for that matter Millie and Nyla, are portrayed as genuine people and their reactions/responses never seem forced in the film. The audience will grow to like these characters and will root for them to overcome not only the Butcher, but also the hazards of high school. Despite Newton and O’Connor’s strong acting, Osherovich is the breakout actor of the film and leaves the audience wanting to see more of this budding star
  • A Twist on a Classic Idea. Writer/Director Christopher Landon has experience in turning a horror trope on its side, as seen in his previous film Happy Death Day, so taking another old film trope, body-swapping, and successfully making a fun and quirky film in Freaky should not surprise anyone. Landon keeps the pace of the film moving, never allowing the momentum of the plot to slow down and causing the 1 hour and 42 minute film to fly by. The writers also do a phenomenal job of producing a secondary storyline as Millie and her family deal with the off-screen death of her father, which the writers not only allow the storyline to grow organically, but they also give it a sense of closure. Most horror films introduce a secondary storyline, but the story usually never goes anywhere, or it is forgotten, but not in Freaky. On top of that, the deceased father storyline actually plays into why Millie, her sister, and her mother act the way they do with not only each other but in the extreme situations they are placed in.

The Bad:

  • Lack of backstory for Millie’s high school. While the film does a tremendous job of giving a backstory to Millie’s family, her backstory about her position in the high school hierarchy seems “unfinished”. Millie and her friends are seen as nerds/outcasts, but we never really see the reason why they are picked on by the “cool” kids. Yes, Millie is quiet, much to her one teacher’s chagrin, while Nyla is artsy and Josh is gay, but overall, we never really learn why they are the brunt of everyone’s bullying. I know teenagers don’t really need a reason to pick on others, but a little more information, and possibly spending another 15 minutes in the high school environment would have helped this small issue. Adding to the confusion is Booker (Uriah Shelton), one of the football players and “cool” kids who has a crush on Millie. There isn’t much of a reason to understand why they like each other and for being a group of outcasts, Millie and her friends are pretty much welcomed at any party or event that, in general, “non-cool” kids are not usually welcomed.

The Middling:

  • Where’s the body count? The opening scene of the film starts with promise as the Butcher, known in the beginning of the film as more urban legend than real, slashing his way through several teenagers at a small gathering while one of the teenager’s parents are away. The scene plays out like a typical horror film and allows for several unique kills by the Butcher, while establishing just how deranged the killer is. Unfortunately, minus the two murders when the Butcher first enters Millie’s body, the body count takes a break until the end. The lack of a body count in the middle of the film doesn’t hamper it, but it did surprise me that for a slasher film, the body count wasn’t much higher. Luckily, Freaky remedies this issue by the end of the film as several bullies get their penance at the hands of the Butcher and we are left with a satisfying and brutal ending.

Final Grade: B- (Good)

Freaky just misses out on being a future “classic” horror film, but it’s still a great way to spend the night at home during a pandemic. The cast is top-notch, the murders are unique but not in a completely unrealistic way, and the humor hits when it needs to hit. Overall, Freaky does a good job of mashing the films Mean Girls into the world of Scream and giving a unique take on the tired trope of body-swapping. If you are looking for a fun, smart, and different horror film, Freaky is well worth your time.

You can catch Jason Brigger on the geek-centric podcast, The History of Bad Ideas, as new episodes are released every week at www.nerdly.co.uk or subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, Amazon Music and other podcasting apps. You can listen to their latest episode right here.

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