From the mind of Christopher Landon is his latest effort - the horror-comedy Freaky. Landon, who directed and co-wrote this mash up of Freaky Friday and Friday the 13th, provides a fun movie with (obviously) both scares and laughs. It stars Vince Vaughn, Kathryn Newton, Katie Finneran, Celeste O’Connor, Misha Osherovich, Uriah Shelton, Dana Drori and Alan Ruck, while Michael Kennedy co-wrote with Landon.

Newton plays Blissfield High School student Millie Kessler, an unpopular girl who’s dealing with the unexpected death of her father and its effect on her family, which includes her mother Paula (Finneran) and older sister, police officer Char (Drori). One night while waiting for mom to pick her up, Millie comes face-to-face with a serial killer known as the Blissfield Butcher (Vaughn). With stories and rumors circulating for years about the Butcher, and 4 Blissfield High students just murdered the night before, the Butcher obviously intends to add Millie to his list of victims. A foot chase ensues and the Butcher catches Millie, wielding a mystical dagger known as La Dola (the Butcher took it from the home where he killed the 4 teens).

Unbeknownst to the Butcher, La Dola contains special powers, so when he stabs Millie in the shoulder an identical wound appears on the Butcher. That wound, and Char’s timely arrival, is enough to scare off the Butcher, luckily leaving Millie injured instead of dead. But the next morning Millie and the Butcher awake to find themselves in the other’s body – Millie within the body of the Butcher; the Butcher inside Millie’s body. Millie is left to determine what she needs to do to get her body back while preventing the Butcher from claiming more lives.

Although Freaky contains previously-used concepts, the combination of slasher horror with body-swapping comedy is a fresh and outrageous spin. Landon creates a universe where viewers can potentially be grossed out one minute and laughing out loud the next. That goal is achieved numerous times as Landon tackles themes of bullying, loss, friendship and love, all within what essentially a coming of age setting focused on allowing Millie to break out of her shell.

Helping sell Landon’s idea are both Vaughn and Newton. Vaughn is tackling a dual role – the veteran actor has played villains before, so he can convincingly play a serial killer. But he has never played a teenage girl, for obvious reasons. Vaughn must incorporate tropes and mannerisms that simply aren’t required of him and, to his credit, he delivered. Vaughn mirrored traits and mannerisms of not just a teenage girl, he successfully mimicked the personality of his co-star’s character. He was able to believably play both Millie and the Butcher while turning the charm on and off accordingly. This may be one of his best roles, albeit some may recognize this turn as sheer camp, which, surprisingly, is not.

Newtown is just as fantastic playing dual roles. Newton looks like a typical teen who’s almost never considered a homicidal threat (despite the notion teenage girls can be the most unapologetic bullies), so it could be difficult to play a man and a serial killer. Quiet, unassuming, willing to please – that’s Millie. Replace those traits with those of a deranged killer, but inside the body of the same, unassuming teen, and you have the perfect ruse. Newton is perfect as both - she hopped from Millie to the Butcher effortlessly.

Landon is becoming horror’s next horror guru, having penned scripts for projects such as Paranormal Activity 2, Paranormal Activity 3, Paranormal Activity 4 and Disturbia. He wrote and directed Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, Happy Death Day and Happy Death Day 2U, the latter two which were well-received. The idea of flipping the horror genre on its head (what - a gay male in Josh (Osherovich) who’s proud of his sexuality and a black female in Nyla (O’Connor) who isn’t killed off in the first scene?) has become Landon’s calling card. His true genius, though, is his insertion of social issues, specifically homosexuality, which Landon has proudly admitted he is.

Freaky is one of the year’s most enjoyable titles from one of Hollywood’s rising artists. Landon realizes he can’t reinvent movies and provide new, unheard of concepts. But Landon is intelligent enough to repurpose tired and overused stories with fresh takes incorporating timely social issues to make highly competent, scary and overwhelmingly entertaining films. He's been honing this since 2017’s Happy Death Day and with Freaky, he may have perfected it.

4 stars out of 5

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