Monday, December 7, 2020

Slasher Switcheroo Friday!: Freaky (2020)

Freaky (2020)
Rating: ****
Starring: Vince Vaughn, Kathryn Newton, Celeste O'Connor

“You’re Black! I’m gay! We are so dead!”
- The last words of Joshua to his friend as the killer catches up on them.
...Or is it?

In the small town of Blissfield, four teenagers are just hanging around at a rich friend's mansion, boozing it up while chatting about a local boogeyman legend known as The Blissfield Butcher who's said to be infamous for slaughtering teens during the annual Homecoming. As you would've guessed, the legend turns out to be real when the Butcher (Vince Vaughn) suddenly arrives and makes easy pickings out these hapless teens, even finding the time to steal an ancient dagger out of the mansion's collection of strange artifacts. 

Cut to the following morning, we see our protagonist Millie (Kathryn Newton) preparing for another day in high school while mending herself from your atypical teenage insecurities and drama; she just lost her father a year ago which had her older sister distracting herself with cop work, all the while their mother tries to dull the loss by drinking and being overly clingy with her kids. Fortunately for Millie, she has a pair of fantastic friends by her side, Joshua (Misha Osherovich) and Nyla (Celeste O’Connor), both very much as supportive as they are aware of their friend's need to let go of the grief.

Things get messed up further for our humble heroine, however, as apart from the usual bullying classmates and asshole teachers, she now finds herself targeted and hunted by the Blissfield Butcher later that evening after trying out as a school mascot. Soon, The Butcher catches up to Millie and stabs her with his new dagger, unaware to the both of them that the weapon does more than just look exotic; as it turns out, the ancient blade has the ability to exchange the consciousness (Or spirit. Or whatever you wanna call it) of the stabber and the stabbee with one another, basically switching bodies. With Millie now in The Butcher's body the morning after, she must find a way to convince her friends into helping, not draw attention to herself (Aaron Rodgers to the rescue!) and figure out how a 6-foot male body works, all in order to stop The Butcher in his continuing killing spree within 24 hours or else the change becomes permanent!

Curiously, this isn't the first time the slasher sub-genre stabbed at the body-swap approach; New Zealand's The Ferryman all the way back from 2007 has a tourist cruise en route to Fiji getting picked off by a murderous stranger with body-swapping abilities, and then in 2013 with Japan teaming up with the US of A to produce It's a Beautiful Day, where homicidal racists target a group of Asian vacationers, only for one of the killers and one of the victims to switch bodies for no apparent reason. While as interesting as these titles are in their attempts to do the slasher formula a tad differently through a fantastical premise, Freaky (2020) did its body-swap angle with a bit more heart and fun to it, embracing the silliness of the idea and just roll with it one messy kill and one hilarious line at a time. 

From filmmaker Christopher Landon, who gave us the amazing Happy Death Day (2017) and its equally awesome sequel Happy Death Day 2U (2019), Freaky (2020) is a simple, loving throwback to weird teen comedies, with a gruesome side of gory slasher mayhem seen as early as the opening massacre and its homages to Halloween (1978), Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter (1984) and even Sorority Row (2009). The central plot is basically hijinks upon hijinks of Millie, her friends and, eventually, her crush Booker (Uriah Shelton) trying to stop and capture The Butcher, as well as getting back the magical dagger that started the switch, all done with a satisfying range of comedy and commentary filled with sweet sharp writing, balanced hammy acting and subtle slapstick. With this, Vince Vaughn (who I hadn't seen in a slasher movie since Psycho (1998)) plays his young teen girl persona with much relaxed feminine wile that's cheesed up for the laughs, an enjoyable treat of a performance that would have completely stolen the show if it wasn't for Kathryn Newton doing her awesome take as an icy cold killing machine.

Apart from its wholesome slice of comedy, Landon and writer Michael Kennedy also took the time to slow down to develop its characters and aim for the feels, giving us a few warm moments where either Millie or her family express their insecurities and troubles either knowingly or unknowingly to one another. Of course, this doesn't stray Freaky (2020) away from its slasher nature too way off and we're definitely still treated with a pure NC-17 rating massacre that's untamed in its violence and relentless in its gore. Best among these kills include set-ups involving a nasty take on a wine bottle, a freezing death that could rival Jason X (2001)'s infamous "faceless Adrianne" kill and a table saw bisection in shop class, most of them satisfyingly committed upon hated characters that are begging to be dismembered, keeping the stakes predictable but aimed high on the splatter factor for how practical it all is. I also love the fact that we never really have a solid backstory behind the Butcher as even the characters are unsure what year he started his killings; he is simply just there to terrorize and be nasty to people, taking glee from taking lives.

All in all, one can easily overlook Freaky (2020)'s clichés and plot holes for its modest grade entertainment. As for any body-switch story to work, it depends to how much the swapped characters sell their personality despite being in the wrong body and this film achieves this in a way that doesn't deviate much from the note and wonderfully blends in the 80s slasher frame with a young adult coming-of-age fantasy comedy with elements of loss and reinventing. Again, the plot isn't anything new, but its feel-good vibe and dreadful karmic demises meant, more than anything else, Freaky (2020) is in it for the horror-comedy fun! See it and enjoy it!

1 male gets a wine bottle shoved and shattered into his throat
1 female had her head repeatedly crushed with a toilet seat lid
1 male gets a broken tennis racket stabbed into his temples
1 female impaled through a spear
1 female frozen solid inside a locked cryotherapy tank, shattered
1 male stabbed in the neck with a screwdriver, bisected through a table saw
1 male had his throat slashed with a broken vodka bottle
1 male eviscerated with a chainsaw
1 male found decapitated with a chainsaw
1 male hacked in an eye with a meat hook
1 male gets a broken table leg stabbed and kicked through his chest
Total: 11

1 comment:


    When that kid and Vince Vaughn start making out in the car I laughed so damn loudly!