“Freaky,” directed by Christopher Landon, is a clever take on the slasher genre, despite occasionally suffering from clunky dialogue and some weak characterization. Landon, known for directing the “Happy Death Day” films, focuses his narrative on Millie, a high schooler who exists on the periphery of her school’s social circles along with her friends Nyla and Josh. “Freaky” plays like a Disney Channel movie or the latest John Green adaptation, except with a notorious serial killer, the “Blissfield Butcher” played by Vince Vaughn, on the loose terrorizing Millie’s town and killing off several of her fellow classmates. The tone of the film is noticeably satirical early on, as the Butcher claims his first victims in a spectacularly gory fashion.
The film’s dark sense of humor takes an unfortunate backseat as the first act introduces its three main characters; this is where “Freaky” is easily at its weakest. You can tell the filmmakers have a passion for the slasher genre, and for horror tropes in general, but are uninterested in the lives of their young protagonists. Millie, Josh and Nyla are undeniably meant to be parodies of tropes found in these kinds of films, but the movie is inconsistent when it tries to add any kind of emotional weight to them.
There is one distinct joke found in the trailer that works, where Josh points out to Nyla that there is no way they are going to make it out alive since he’s gay and she’s black. It is in moments like these that the movie shines and distinguishes itself by lovingly poking fun at horror tropes. However, the film soon follows up with a scene that is clearly meant to be emotionally resonant, but instead makes the overall tone feel jumbled and confused. This happens multiple times, and although the film is thoroughly entertaining, the needlessly overwrought heartfelt scenes divert from the film’s central tone.
The movie’s greatest asset, however, is Vaughn’s portrayal of a teenage girl. It is easily one of his most memorable performances, and he does a great job at capturing the humor and the vulnerability of the situation. He never goes too far to the point where it seems as if he is doing a really bad imitation of how he thinks a 17-year-old acts and talks. Instead, his mannerisms are just subtle enough to be convincing.
As previously mentioned, the kills in this film are also satisfyingly brutal. The film undoubtedly revels in the cruel, inventive ways in which it is able to kill off its characters. If you’re buying a ticket to this movie, chances are you share “Freaky”’s sick sense of humor, which Landon delivers. The pristine way in which the movie is shot also adds a nice juxtaposition to the violence on screen. There is no grit or grime to the look of the movie, which makes the kills even more shocking, as you remember that you’re watching a slasher and not a teen comedy.
“Freaky” is worth seeing, even if it is tonally uneven. It has enough cheap thrills to keep any slasher fan satisfied, a fantastic Vince Vaughn performance unlike anything you’ll see this year and a truly original premise.