Freaky

★★★★½ 

Co-writer/director Christopher Landon’s “Freaky” (now playing in theaters) is an absolute blast of a movie! I recently better familiarized with Landon’s filmography (I’d previously only seen “Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse,” which is only OK.) by catching up with “Happy Death Day” and “Happy Death Day 2 U” – both of which are fun flicks, but they don’t hold a candle to “Freaky” so far as laughs and gore go. Michael Landon’s son has hit a career peak here, folks.

Millie (Kathryn Newton) is a high schooler who lost her Dad. Her Mom, Paula (Katie Finneran), is busying herself by crawling inside countless Chardonnay bottles. Her older sister, Maggie (Dana Drori), is a police officer who still lives at home and is very much of the opinion that Millie needs to get herself a life. Millie isn’t especially well-liked – she’s the school mascot and gets bullied. She’s not friendless – she’s got the “too gay to function” Josh (Misha Osherovich) and Nyla (Celeste O’Connor, who appeared in “Selah and the Spades” earlier this year). She has a crush on sweet jock Booker Hooker (Uriah Shelton, super-likable here), but she lacks the courage to pursue him and firmly believes that he doesn’t even know she exists.

Millie’s luck goes from bad to worse when she’s attacked by the Blissfield Butcher (Vince Vaughn). He stabs her in the shoulder with an ancient Aztec dagger he pilfered from his most recent massacre. The Butcher doesn’t kill Millie as the attack is interrupted by Maggie and her sidearm, which sends the murderer fleeing. The following morning Millie and the Butcher awake having switched bodies. Hilarity and horrors ensue.

I expected to dig “Freaky,” but was unprepared for just how funny, sweet, gruesome and woke it was gonna be. This is a high wire act of moviemaking that maintains its balance almost perfectly. Qualitatively this hews a lot closer to “Big” than it does “Like Father Like Son,” “Vice Versa” or “18 Again!” It’s kinda like “The Hot Chick” … only good and you get to see a dude get fed through a table saw.

Much of the movie’s success is attributable to the performances of Newton and Vaughn. I don’t know if Newton is lucky or simply has an innate ability to pick cool projects, but she kills it here after having appeared in worthwhile stuff such as “Lady Bird,” “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and “Blockers.” Her Millie is deeply sympathetic; her Blissfield Butcher is legitimately frightening. Vaughn mixes his finely-honed comedic chops with the justifiably intimidating heavies he’s essayed of late in things such as S. Craig Zahler’s “Brawl in Cell Block 99.” Vaughn’s stature makes his Blissfield Butcher formidable and his Millie a hoot and a half. His performance as Millie kinda calls to mind Jack Black’s hilarious work in “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” from a coupla years back. Vaughn’s absolutely murdering 2020 (Glad someone is!) between this and his inspired turn in Clark Duke’s “Arkansas” (Seriously, see this movie if you haven’t!).

I must give kudos to Landon and Osherovich for gifting us the character of Josh. It’s cool to see a gay filmmaker give a gay actor a gay character that’s this awesome. Josh is a super-cool kid that will likely empower queer teen audience members – he’s funny, smart, a good friend, comfortable with and unafraid of expressing his sexuality. Osherovich is given most of the movie’s funniest lines and he aces ‘em. The kid kinda steals the flick, which is no small feat considering just how good Newton and Vaughn are.

“Freaky” may be the last movie I see in a theater for a while given the recent spike in Covid numbers and a lack of quality titles releasing. I can’t in good faith recommend y’all go see it theatrically considering where we’re at right now, but as always do whatever you’re comfortable with and wear a damned mask! I would wholeheartedly advise y’all to seek it out at some point however. (I suspect it will be on VOD sooner as opposed to later.) When things normalize this would be an awesome option for a night-in with friends, pizza and a bunch of beers. “Freaky” is going to deservedly live on in college dorm rooms and middle and high school sleepovers. It’s a cult classic in the making.

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