The reviews are in: Vince Vaughn is scary good in 'Freaky' slasher comedy

Christi Carras
·5 min read
Vince Vaughn
Vince Vaughn as the Butcher in "Freaky." (Universal Pictures)

Critics are raving about Vince Vaughn's "career-best" performance as a timid high school girl trapped in the body of a towering, sociopathic serial killer.

Hey, stranger things have happened on Friday the 13th.

The veteran actor appears opposite rising star Kathryn Newton in "Freaky," the buzzy body-swap slasher comedy from the creators of the hit "Happy Death Day" franchise.

Released in select theaters Friday, the movie features Vaughn as the Blissfield Butcher, a ruthless murderer who attempts to stab his latest young victim, Millie (Newton), to death — but ends up switching souls with her instead.

"The big comic gimmick here is the physical presence of the beefy Vaughn, who for long stretches of 'Freaky' gets to pretend he’s a teenage girl," writes Noel Murray for The Times.

"To the actor’s credit, he doesn’t overplay it. He mainly makes Millie into someone very aware of her feelings — whether she’s taking giddy delight in urinating as a man or taking advantage of being incognito to have a heart-to-heart conversation with her mother."

In a conversation with The Times, Vaughn admitted the absurd concept of the Blumhouse vehicle "scared me a little at first,” adding, “But I felt like, ‘Well, that’s probably good.’ I’d sort of been wanting to do stuff where I feel a little like your feet can’t touch the bottom.”

Here's a sampling of other "Freaky" reviews, which also praise Newton's portrayal of a scream queen turned murderous maniac with a "determined stalk and icy death stare."

The Guardian

"Newton, with the less showier of roles, is an effectively ferocious killer ... But it’s Vaughn who steals it with career-best work, a surprisingly impactful and, at times, moving turn that goes way beyond the surface silliness of the setup," writes Benjamin Lee.

"Too often, male actors in a similar scenario (such as Jack Black in Jumanji) play a girl in a man’s body as high camp, leaning into hoary gay affectations, mincing around while doing a high-pitched voice. But Vaughn is so much more studied than that, focusing on more specific aspects (the biting of nails, an awkward, never not funny, run, how a change in size then changes behaviour), realising that not all girls act in the same cliched way. It’s a marvellous, thoughtful performance from an actor who’s been doing so very little for so long."

Rolling Stone

"The sheer gusto with which Vaughn throws himself into the Millie-by-proxy role is a thing to behold," writes David Fear.

"His commitment to the extended bit that is this high-concept premise works, even when Freaky doesn’t, and if you’d told many of us that there would be a subversive story of female empowerment in a horror-comedy featuring Vaughn as one of two 'final girls' ... we’d have thought you were certifiably cuckoo. This is 2020, however, which means all bets are off. It also suggests that while there might not be a franchise in the making here, the film has stumbled across a winning formula. This could open up whole new avenues for its duo. Now let’s see Vaughn do a remake of Clueless."

Kathryn Newton, Vince Vaughn
Kathryn Newton as Millie Kessler, left, and Vince Vaughn as the Butcher in "Freaky." (Brian Douglas / Universal Pictures)

Variety

"At 6’5″, the hulking actor certainly has the build to play a small-town serial killer, and the moment he lowers his mask is nothing if not a nod to Gus Van Sant’s shot-for-shot “Psycho” remake (of all things)," writes Peter Debruge.

"Turns out, Vaughn’s better at playing a teenage girl than he is at harnessing his inner Norman Bates."

Slate

"Vaughn has the room to give an even bigger performance, and he makes the most of it," writes Karen Han.

"When Millie, still inside the Butcher, must interact with her crush Booker (Uriah Shelton), the resulting scene is funny — but touching, too, especially as Booker, once he gets over his initial reluctance to believe what’s happening, treats Millie just as he would if she weren’t transformed. It really is just a scene between a high school girl and her crush, and Vaughn commits to the emotion of the scene so fully that you almost forget he’s a 50-year-old man."'

The Hollywood Reporter

"Vaughn shamelessly steals several scenes portraying Millie’s often comedic feminization of the Butcher’s aggro attitude with flowing body movements, shy facial expressions and gentle vocalizations, particularly in an unexpectedly tender scene with Millie’s all-time crush Booker (Uriah Shelton)," writes Justin Lowe.

"Not to be outdone, Newton dials up the belligerence that makes the Butcher so formidable with a plodding gait and glowering glances while discovering the power of her own femininity to counter toxic male hostility."

Vulture

"Vaughn doesn’t exactly replicate Newton’s performance when he’s playing Millie — when he holds his arms high and close to his sides when he runs, he’s going for some easier idea of what girlishness looks like — but he’s funny with the physicality in more micro ways," writes Alison Wilmore.

Kathryn Newton
Kathryn Newton as the Butcher (in Millie Kessler's body) in "Freaky." (Universal Pictures)

The Wrap

"Newton and Vaughn are both game — although Vaughn does cop out during a kissing scene with Shelton’s character — finding the fun in the physicality of these very different characters," writes Alonso Duralde.

"The Butcher realizes that Millie doesn’t have his physical strength, and Millie keeps bumping her head since she’s not used to a body that’s about a foot taller than her own."

The Washington Post

"The chief pleasure of the film derives from the incongruity of Vaughn’s performance, which the actor never pushes into caricature," writes Michael O'Sullivan. "Still, it’s a giggle, not a guffaw."

The New York Times

"As the swappers settle into their new forms, Vaughn and Newton prove remarkably effective at selling the benefits of their alternate packaging," writes Jeannette Catsoulis. "Their efforts, however, are too often diluted by the film’s lazy plotting and Millie’s hackneyed emotional baggage."

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.