Freaky (4 stars)

Freaky

Comedy merges with horror in a bloodthirsty body swap film featuring Vince Vaughn and Kathryn Newton

Vince Vaughn was a staple of the late nineties and early noughties Hollywood comedy scene in films like Swingers, Old School, Wedding Crashers and The Break-Up before largely falling from commercial favour – his libertarian politics may not have helped matters. Recently, Vaughn's work with ultra-violence enthusiast S Craig Zahler has given him a new lease of life, with the physically imposing actor well-used in scenes of bare-knuckle brutality in 2017's Brawl in Cell Block 99 and 2018's Dragged Across Concrete. Freaky, a gleefully twisted spin on Freaky Friday, utilises Vaughn's comic chops, whilst sating his newfound bloodlust.

Written and directed by Christopher Landon (who did a fine job with Happy Death Day and also directed its sequel and Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones), with Michael Kennedy co-writing, Freaky opens in enjoyably outlandish style as a group of teens in a town amusingly dubbed Blissfield fall foul of Vaughn's serial killer The Butcher. When he steals the La Dola dagger, an ancient Aztec artifact used in ritual sacrifice, and later plunges it into Kathryn Newton's sweet and shy 17-year-old, Millie, it causes the pair to swap bodies, an act that can only be undone within 24 hours.

Neatly combining the gratuitous gore of a slasher film with bad-taste humour and farce, Freaky is ideal popcorn entertainment for those with strong stomachs. Trapped in the body of a 50-year-old man, Millie is luckily able to persuade her best pals Nyla and Josh (Celeste O'Connor and Misha Osherovich) who she really is, and the trio try to put things right, with hapless results, while Homecoming provides a suitably glittering and potentially victim-heavy backdrop against which the carnage can unfold.

Vaughn gamely attacks the material as he wakes up as Millie in the starkly horrifying surroundings of a killer's lair, before trying to get his head around the height difference ('I'm a giant!' he despairs whilst tangling with a branch) and finding himself in an odd clinch with Millie's dopey crush. It's wonderfully preposterous watching this towering and staunchly masculine actor embracing his feminine side, in a role that requires him to be girlish, easily embarrassed and even quite dainty, while the versatile and impressive Newton (Blockers, The Map of Tiny Perfect Things) is his perfect flip-side, going from awkward and adorable to menacing and merciless with relish.

Attempts to bring a modern flavour to proceedings – playing with pronouns, the film's Black and gay characters commenting on their slim chances of survival – are welcome if not always successful, but where the film is most confident is in its ability to draw from the past. Nodding to horror staples all over the shop (Friday the 13th, Halloween, Gremlins, Evil Dead II, Jennifer's Body), Freaky is unashamedly derivative and celebratory, and a whole heap of fun.

Available to watch in cinemas from Fri 2 Jul.

Freaky

  • 4 stars
  • 2020
  • US
  • 1h 42min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Christopher Landon
  • Cast: Vince Vaughn, Kathryn Newton, Katie Finneran, Celeste O'Connor, Misha Osherovich, Alan Ruck

Body-swap comedy in which a young woman switches places with a serial killer.