Kathryn Newton

Freaky

18/02/22

NOW Cinema

Our on-going efforts to catch up with some of the movies that were lost in lockdown continues. Freaky was released at the worst possible time for a film of this kind. Here is something that really needs to be seen with a bunch of friends, in an actual cinema, to be fully appreciated. But, needs must and all that.

To be honest, Christopher Landon and Michael Kennedy’s spoof slasher movie starts unpromisingly as we see four teenagers gorily despatched by the Blissfield Butcher, a masked killer in the (jugular) vein of Michael Myers. Indeed, there are clear nods to Halloween and other classics of the genre, but the problem is that there’s no real suspense generated here, the killings suspended in that lonely wasteland somewhere between horror and comedy.

Just as I’m thinking of reaching for the ‘off’ switch, however, the film plays its trump card, as The Butcher (Vince Vaughan) attacks troubled teen Millie (Kathryn Newton) with an ancient Aztec dagger and things change significantly. For this, it turns out, is a body-swap story (working title Freaky Friday the 13th). Now Millie is running around in the body of a six-foot-plus male serial killer and she’s having the devil of a job convincing her best friends, Nyla (Celeste O’ Connor) and Josh (Misha Osherovich), that she’s worthy of their trust.

Meanwhile, The Butcher is wandering gleefully around the high school in Millie’s petite frame, exacting bloody revenge on everyone who is mean to him – and that vengeance is not exclusively directed at his fellow students, either. Teacher Mr Bernardi (Alan Ruck) is also due a healthy dose of comeuppance.

And suddenly it’s working! This edgy mix of killer-thriller and high school romcom feels fresh and inventive, while Vaughan gives a nicely nuanced performance that’s much more adept than the high-camp caricature familiar from this genre. Newton handles her inner malevolence with skill and Osherovich, as Millie’s snarky gay friend, is given some genuinely funny lines to deliver. As he observes to Nyla: ‘You’re black, I’m gay. We are SO dead!’

The subsequent killings have much more impact now that we actually have characters that we can care about – and the pace is too frantic to allow time to consider the improbabilities of the plot.

But, you can’t help but wonder, how on earth are they ever going to tie these various strands into a satisfying conclusion? Suffice to say they do, and, most refreshing of all, there’s no attempt to dangle the possibility of a sequel.

4 stars

Philip Caveney