Film Review: Freaky

freaky indexFrom the director of Happy Death Day and its sequel, which were two films that were a little over praised but mostly all good unclean fun, comes this body swap comedy where the main selling point is that you get to see Vince Vaughan spend a tiny bit of the movie taking on the role of a dangerous psychopath, and the majority of it pretending to be a young woman on the run from a psychopath.

After a brutal beginning involving deaths by wine bottle, toilet bowl and tennis racket, Vince Vaughan’s psychopathic The Butcher proves he’s a right old naughty sort by stealing a mysterious knife with a gem in its handle. Cut to the antics of school girl Millie (Kathryn Newton), who comes complete with an alcoholic mother, a cop sister and a dead dad, so it’s pretty clear she’s going to be the hero of the piece within a couple of seconds.

Once Millie’s two dimensional character is set up we get to meet a supporting cast of potential victims, including friends Nyla (Celeste O’Connor), Joshua (Misha Osherovich), and teacher Mr. Bernardi (Succession star Alan Ruck), but before you know it The Butcher’s back on the scene and chasing poor old Millie. He stabs her with his newly nicked knife but she manages to escape, and after both go to sleep, at the stroke of midnight they swap bodies, and enormously long and disgusting scenes of masturbation ensue.

Okay, fine, that doesn’t happen, which means that even though The Butcher was a killer at least he’s not a pervert, he briefly checks out Millie’s breasts but then he ignores the difference in sex and it’s more about Millie acting manly and murderous and The Butcher suddenly squealing in a feminine manner, talking at about ten times the speed as usual, and doing her best to avoid being killed by those pesky police officers you get nowadays.

It’s a film which takes its premise and stretches it to near breaking point, but just about manages to avoid becoming too repetitive. This is largely due to Vaughn’s superb performance, he commits to the role one hundred percent and uses his bulky physicality in a lot of amusing ways. Newton’s also strong as the now psychotic serial killer, swearing almost constantly but learning both the disadvantages and advantages of being a woman.

Sometimes it feels like a little bit of a missed opportunity, director and writer Christopher Landon and co-writer Michael Kennedy make a couple of points about how both characters feel in their new bodies but it certainly could have said a lot more. It’s also vaguely playful when it comes to high school life and various character’s sexuality, but again, while it touches upon such ideas it doesn’t have an awful lot to say about them, which is frustrating as it comes close to being a much smarter movie than it actually is.

Most of the time it concerns itself with either bloody kills or thrilling chase scenes, though the deaths come in clusters and it might have been a bit more enjoyable if the body count had been higher, and the occasions when death takes place were a little less predictable. The dialogue could be stronger too, there’s a fair few funny lines, mostly delivered by The Butcher while he’s possessed by Millie, but it’s rare that anyone else in the film gets something funny to say.

Like Happy Death Day and its sequel it certainly has fun with its central concept, and Vince Vaughn really is superb in it. But like those films I can’t help but wish it had been a little more innovative, a little more unusual, and contained a structure which wasn’t so foreseeable, as it comes really close to being a comedy horror film which is quite special but doesn’t quite manage it.

★★★

Alex Finch.
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