After transferring the comedy motif of the time loop to horror cinema, director and screenwriter Christopher Landon takes on the theme in his new film FREAKY the topic of body swapping. And once again proves himself to be an excellent connoisseur of both genres. We reveal more about this in our review.
OT: Freaky (USA 2020)
17-year-old Millie Kessler (Kathryn Newton) actually just wanted to finish her senior year of high school, but suddenly her life is thrown into disarray in a very unexpected way. The notorious serial killer ‘Blissfield Butcher’ (Vince Vaughn) terrorizes the city and soon meets Millie. While trying to make her his next victim, he accidentally triggers an ancient curse that causes the teenager and the killer to awaken in each other’s bodies. Now Millie only has 24 hours to break the curse and avoid being trapped forever in the form of the psychopath who is being sought everywhere. With the help of her friends Nyla (Celeste O’Connor), Joshua (Misha Osherovich) and her crush Booker (Uriah Shelton), Millie fights against time. Meanwhile, the ‘Blissfield Butcher’ likes his new look. A teenager’s body is the perfect camouflage for him to carry out the bloody act.
Regardless of whether director and screenwriter Christopher Landon only got a taste for it through the success of “Happy Deathday” or whether he planned to transfer narrative motifs primarily known from comedy to horror cinema at the beginning of his career as a filmmaker: his plan worked . While he was working on his first real mainstream success in 2017 – at the time already his fourth feature film after the rather moderately successful (and/or successful) “Burning Palms”, “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” and “Scouts vs. Zombies” – mixed a high school time loop comedy with a serial killer horror film (we prefer to keep a veil of silence about the sequel, which takes on abstruse sci-fi traits), he remains true to the serial killer trope for his latest film “Freaky” and uses the comedic one Variation again on an idea mainly known from comedies: body swapping. This subgenre of comedy experienced its heyday in the 1970s and 1980s, when, among others, George Burns (“Finally 18 Again”), Tom Hanks (“Big”) and, of course, Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster (“One Crazy Friday”) They were allowed to swap bodies with each other or with younger variations of themselves. But filmmakers are also continually discovering this narrative driving force for current cinema – such as for the “Jumanji sequel” from 2019, the anime hit “Your Name” or now “Freaky”. This time a teenage girl and a feared serial killer are allowed to slip into each other’s bodies – an experiment that really works.
Vince Vaughn plays the ‘Blissfield Butcher’ with an engaging physique. If he stabs, it’ll be bloody.
“Freaky” already has the first laugh on its side, but the actual plot hasn’t even started yet. The film begins with a timeline that takes up the entire screen: “Wednesday, the 11th” – “Wednesday the 11th.” On exactly this day – and two days before Friday the 13th, which is notorious not only in horror film circles – a group of young people fall into the hands of the merciless serial killer ‘Blissfield Butcher’ (the working title of the film was even “Freaky Friday the 13th “). In “Happy Deathday” Christopher Landon demonstrated his instinct for directing a story that is both funny but also downright scary in the crucial moments; Although the comedy part dominated a bit at the end. “Happy Deathday” wasn’t a really nasty horror film. “Freaky” is also always really funny at times, but this opening is already symptomatic of the fine line Landon sometimes walks between genres: “Freaky” begins with a scream, only to prove that a blink of an eye later The makers – Blumhouse Productions at the forefront – have exhausted the R rating with all their might. In short: “Freaky” isn’t just directed by Vince Vaughn (“Fighting with my Family”) as a physically powerful, thoroughly frightening butcher, but also allows his actions to escalate to a remarkably bloody level. “Happy Deathday” was a warm-up program.
“’Freaky’ not only portrays Vince Vaughn as a physically powerful, thoroughly frightening butcher, but also allows his actions to escalate to a remarkably bloody level.”
But Vince Vaughn is not the only highlight in “Freaky” – only in the interaction with his young actress colleague Kathryn Newton (“The Sex Pact”) Vaughn really turns it up. Or rather: in exchange. Because most of the time Vaughn isn’t himself, but rather 17-year-old Millie. And as this, he manages the trick of acting just as affectedly as is necessary to clearly identify Vaughn as a teenager – who is both authentically overwhelmed and fascinated by a 1.96m tall man’s body. But never so much that it falls into a mocking, and therefore rather derogatory, gesture. We know this from the very cliched portrayal of many homosexual sidekicks in mainstream films. In “Freaky,” on the other hand, the body swap works brilliantly. Also on the female side. When the serial killer soul suddenly enters the body of the young Kathryn Newton and she sneaks through the corridors of her school with a crazy killer look and stoic calm, your blood freezes in your veins, even though Newton’s external appearance – apart from a blood-red leather jacket – does not change. It is solely thanks to her spot-on performance that the perception of who is the protagonist and who is the antagonist in this film changes as if by itself. The label “great drama cinema”, which is usually more appropriate for a genre like drama, is not too high for “Freaky”. On the contrary: without the performances of the two main actors, the premise would only work half as well.
Millie’s (Kathryn Newton) body contains the soul of a butcher. For him, his new appearance is the perfect camouflage.
The path to the goal, in this case to the point at which Millie and the Butcher exchange their bodies again, works excellently as a sequence of various amusing moments. The humor, of course, arises primarily from Newton and Vaughn’s (confusing) game, but also the passionate attempts to shed light on the darkness (Millie’s friends, of course, initially don’t want to admit that her schoolmate’s soul is from now on body of a middle-aged giant), making the absurd events believable to those around them and, last but not least, finding a solution to the problem are peppered with creative ideas, numerous horror film references and surprises. But as bloody as “Freaky” is, Landon’s latest genre mashup doesn’t offer hardcore suspense either. The moments of tension are cushioned too quickly by the actors and the production. Nevertheless: The makers have honestly earned the FSK approval from 16 onwards. Not only does the opening, which has already been described in detail, cause blood to squirt and intestines to fly, Christopher Landon also enjoys the killing moments of his killer to the fullest as the film progresses. This works particularly well on the big screen.
“The humor arises, of course, primarily from Newton and Vaughn’s (confusing) game, but also from the passionate attempts to shed light on the darkness, to make the absurd events believable to those around them and, last but not least, to find a solution to the problem find are peppered with creative ideas, numerous horror film references and surprises.”
Speaking of the big screen: The fact that the distributor Universal Pictures, which gave “Freaky” a short theatrical release in the USA before making it available as a premium rental title for $19.99 three weeks later, is sticking to it in this country in the new one Bringing it to cinemas this year shows a certain basic trust in the project. After numerous start date postponements, a release is currently planned for February 4th. And without genre competition, “Freaky” could perhaps become a similar surprise success as “Happy Deathday”. Landon and his team should be honored not only because of their courage to implement the premise so consistently, but also because the high-quality production simply deserves the big screen. With the right audience, a trip to the cinema to see “Freaky” turns into a murderously amusing horror party.
Conclusion: So “Freaky” will be a cinema highlight in 2021, instead of 2020 as originally planned. The equally highly amusing and bloody mix of body switch comedy and serial killer film may not be suitable for those horror fans who like their genre cinema really exciting. But Christopher Landon has managed, for the second time after “Happy Deathday”, to turn genre mechanisms inside out, reinvent them and simply use them. And Vince Vaughn and Kathryn Newton have high cult potential in their roles.
“Freaky” can be seen in USA cinemas from June 24th.