Freaky (15) |Close-Up Film Review

Dir. Christopher Landon, US, 2020, 102 mins

Cast:   Vince Vaughn, Kathryn Newton

Review by Carol Allen

Initially this must have seemed like a really good idea for a horror cum comedy film.  A serial killer and a high school teenage girl, who swap bodies, particularly when they got skilled comedy actor Vince Vaughn on board to play the lead.  Sadly though, while the horror element is efficiently gory and shocking, the comedy falls flat on its face.

The film opens with the Butcher (Vaughn, hiding behind a mask reminiscent of Hannibal Lector) gorily despatching four very annoying and vacuous teenagers, for which he almost got my support. One of them he bumps off with an ancient knife which has unspecified mystic powers. 

We then meet poor bullied little high school teen Millie (Kathryn Newton), who lives with her widowed mum Coral (Katie Finneran) and Charlene (Dana Drori), a rather butch looking younger woman, who is a cop and who at first I thought was mum’s lesbian partner.  Well, in other respects the film is fashionably “woke”, in that Millie has a black bestie girlfriend Nyla (Celeste O’Connor) and a second bestie “ultra fabulous” (American for gay) male friend Josh (Misha Osherovich).  Charlene however rather disappointingly turns out to be Millie’s elder sister. 

So – to the plot.  The Butcher earmarks Millie as his next victim but because of the mystic knife and the full moon it all goes pear shaped and he and Millie find themselves in each other’s bodies.

 Millie, now played by Vaughn and trapped inside a middle aged male body, is desperate to get back into her own – well wouldn’t you be? – but the Butcher (yes now played by Newton) rather enjoys being a teenage girl with serial killer intentions.  He/she dons an amazingly perfect make up and Charlene’s rather mannish rust red leather jacket and sets about the business.  As serial killers go, he/she is pretty good at selecting nasty people to kill in imaginatively grisly ways involving freezers, power tools and a few other horror film staples.  On the bump off list are the teacher who’s been humiliating Millie, the prom queen who’s been giving her a hard time and some teenage boys contemplating a bit of gang rape.  So that’s alright then.

Newton in her serial killer scenes strives for an air of chilling menace, though it sometimes comes over more like the serpent of the Nile having a sulk.  Vaughn though struggles even harder to convince as a girl in a man’s body.  Supported in hysteria by Millie’s two besties, he resorts to a lot of hand flapping, screaming and flurry, which comes over as merely camp, while two supposedly touching scenes, which he shares with Millie’s mum and then with the boy at school whom she fancies, are really rather mawkish and embarrassing.  

This is one occasion when Vaughn’s comedy skills just aren’t up to the challenge.

In cinemas from 2nd July