Following the relative success of Happy Death Day (2017) and Happy Death Day 2U (2019) — Freaky takes advantage of writer-director Christopher Landon’s experience in creating wacky horror comedies to the next level by doubling down on his comedic strengths. Freaky follows the story of a young teenage girl named Millie (Kathryn Newton) and a serial killer called the Blissfield Butcher (Vince Vaughn) as a mysterious event intertwines their lives.
Right off the bat it’s abundantly clear that director Christopher Landon’s career is turning into one of progress and discovery. His film repertoire began in “serious horror”; dealing almost exclusively with the typical found footage horror genre. From his writing role within the Paranormal Activity franchise to his work on the 2007 film Disturbia, he’s had a very binary career as a writer-director within the horror genre. That is until he began gradually shifting toward a more lighter approach with each consecutive film.
It all started with his lackluster dive into his first comedy-horror Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015) – which, while poorly received, showed promise with its goofy style. In 2017 we were met with Happy Death Day, a well received comedy-horror that poked fun at tropes and maintained a light-hearted tone. The sequel Happy Death Day 2U was no different as well. And now, finally, we have Freaky – a direct comedy film that borders on straight up parody.
Landon’s genre of choice has gradually been moving further from horror into this direction and Freaky is the result. It is simply chocka full of horror references, pointing at franchises such as Friday the 13th and Halloween, and of course Freaky Friday. In Freaky we are met with positively gruesome death sequences that are clearly resembling those seen in the aforementioned franchises. It’s clear that Freaky is as much a love-letter to horror as it is a direct comedy or parody of it.
Freaky could be likened to the comedic approach of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017) as it is utilizing situational comedy to drive the humor. I say this because the primary comedic presence of this film is Vince Vaughn’s hilariously off-kilter role that takes full advantage of his stoic presence as a serious actor and comedic timing as a comedy actor. Alongside Vaughn is a notably strong performance by actress Kathryn Newton as she displays a strong palette of variety throughout her role. I don’t mean to imply that these actors were the ones doing the comedic heavy lifting, as even minor characters come across as likable, funny, and charming – it is abundantly clear that the comedic powerhouse of this film is the clever writing and direction by Christopher Landon. With all that said, Freaky is missing a solid emotional thread to make its narrative really excel — this film had all the makings to push its story to the next level, whether that be exploring deeper themes, forming a strong message at the end, or simply subverting expectations in its finale – I felt a little disappointed that Landon decided to end the film on a relatively flat note.
Freaky possesses no interesting camera-work or set-pieces that the audience can get absorbed in. However, it is important to note that the film has no interest in doing this as camera-work is quite bland. It has a lot of static shots and close-ups; I would have appreciated some innovative camera-work that could have made its attempted scares a little more impactful. For a film with a budget of $5 million, it uses its limited budget to maximize the visual effects of the killings that take place and be practical where it can.
The film decides to visit multiple locations which inherently helps the film’s nice pace – with a budget of only $5 million, only so much can be done in terms of its art direction. There is a nice variety of props used for the killings that help the film not become repetitive, even if some of it doesn’t make much sense. A key to make the scares work is score, but mostly about how it is used which is what makes them impactful – sadly, it is quite lackluster here and doesn’t establish atmosphere. Score can mostly be heard when it is attempting to evoke emotion, even when the screenplay hasn’t set up for that moment to be emotionally compelling.
Sure there are elements of this film that don’t quite hit; its emotional edge and thematic presence is practically non-existent – but what Freaky does well is that it entertains and hits its comedic marks – and there are very few comedy’s made in a given year that can actually achieve that single goal.