Freaky (2020) Dec 5, 2020 15:20:59 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Dec 5, 2020 15:20:59 GMT -5
Directed by: Christopher Landon
Directed by: Christopher Landon
Vince Vaughn is the Blissfield Butcher in Freaky.
Freaky is another fun, stylistically potent offering from Christopher Landon. Following Happy Death Day and its surprisingly effective sequel, Landon's style continues to emerge under the Blumhouse umbrella. It's a style further enhanced by whip-smart characters and strong performances. From his spin on the Groundhog Day formula to a "Freaky Friday the 13th" hybrid, his sharp ability to take familiar concepts and infuse them with purpose thanks to a couple humanizing scenes is one that shouldn't go unnoticed.
While its horror elements sometimes feel undercut by a pervasive light-heartedness, Freaky has more than enough visual bite to compensate. The film opens with a group of teens reiterating the local urban legend of the "Blissfield Butcher" only to be hacked by the same Butcher (Vince Vaughn) one-by-one before he steals a mysterious dagger known as "La Dola" from the home. Cut to Blissfield Valley High School where we meet Millie (Kathryn Newton, Big Little Lies), a shy teen with a widowed mom Coral (Katie Finneran) and a police officer older sister named Char (Dana Drori). Perhaps the greatest suspension of disbelief Landon asks of us is to believe Newton would even remotely be disliked and unpopular in high school. If her messy hairdo and modestly tacky wardrobe are her worst flaws, we should all be so fortunate.
Moreover, things get hairy at the homecoming football game when Millie is attacked and subsequently stabbed with the aforementioned dagger by the Butcher, causing their souls to swap. If they can't use the dagger and switch back in 24 hours, they'll permanently reside in the other person's body. Now inhabiting Millie's body, the Butcher dons a shiny leather jacket and has insidious access to the fresh meat of the high school. Meanwhile, in the Butcher's body — whose likeness is plastered all over town — Millie has to evade the police and convince her friends, Nyla (Celeste O’Connor) and Josh (Misha Osherovich), that she is indeed who she claims.
Landon again demonstrates he has a knack not only for character development but for getting strong performances out of relatively inexperienced faces. In the Happy Death Day films, Jessica Rothe and Israel Broussard were likable individuals who only found themselves more believable as their chemistry was allowed to evolve on-screen. The same goes for Newton — both when she's asked to play a more conventional high school outcast and then retreat into a violent sociopath — and her contemporaries in O'Connor and Osherovich. Meanwhile, Vaughn continues to tread outside of his comfort zone, as he's done in recent years. After playing the affable schlub in many a comedy, he's emerged as a serviceable conduit for a thriller (Term Life), an iron-fisted pummeling machine (Brawl in Cell Block 99), and now a serial-killer-turned-teenaged-girl. His range once again shines as he's able to flex his comic delivery in a totally different role.
As was the case in Happy Death Day, Landon gives his films weight and purpose by way of a few key scenes. There's a moment when Millie (in the Butcher's body) is in a changing room at the department store where her mother works, and the two share a heart-to-heart that provides Freaky with emotional resonance necessary to make it feel like more than another carbon-copy slasher. The same applies during a climactic confrontation between Millie and the Butcher when the latter tells her things we believe she's not ready to hear. Other visually intuitive shots, such as when Millie (as the Butcher) tries to outrun her old self only to be trailing behind her confidants in just a matter of seconds, has Landon slyly showing the age/physical disparity in a visual sense without making it an overly obvious gag.
I can't explain how inspiring it is to watch a film from an established director and continue to see his style manifest into newly compelling ways. Landon rises to a new challenge, and I presume he'll continue to do just that, as a writer and a director.
Freaky doesn't boast the body-count perhaps many slasher fans are anticipating, but the abundance of gore during those moments is noteworthy on its own. The excess gore is delightful and practically captured; Sam Raimi-esque in the copious bloodshed. It too compensates for a picture that's a little too heavy on the comedy to be effectively creepy. Something like Zombieland at least nailed its jump-scares, but here, the suspenseful elements don't hit as hard mostly because they're encased in what is essentially a black comedy. Thankfully, Landon and cinematographer Laurie Rose (Stan & Ollie) keep us entertained with the neon chic that further pushes Freaky into the modern 80s canon.
It all merges together to make for a good time as everyone from the cast to the crew bring their A-game. Landon knows a good film doesn't start and stop at a concept, and thus works to give it the intangibles that make it a memorable affair. On the surface, a horror flick that borrows from multiple sources shouldn't be so captivating, but that line of thinking proves that we (and myself) have lowered our expectations in many regards. Landon rightfully reminds us to keep them higher and subsequently delivers.
NOTE: Check out my review of Freaky on my web-show Sleepless with Steve. Catch the show Wednesday evenings at 8pm CST at twitch.tv/sleeplesswithsteve!
Starring: Kathryn Newton, Vince Vaughn, Misha Osherovich, Celeste O'Connor, Katie Finneran, and Dana Drori. Directed by: Christopher Landon.