Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

dir Christopher Landon
prd Jason Blum
scr Michael Kennedy, Christopher Landon
with Vince Vaughn, Kathryn Newton, Celeste O'Connor, Misha Osherovich, Katie Finneran, Alan Ruck, Uriah Shelton, Dana Drori, Melissa Collazo, Ezra Jeb Sexton, Magnus Diehl, Zack Shires
release US 13.Nov.20,
UK 2.Jul.21
20/US Universal 1h42

vaughn newton ruck

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In this mash-up of body-swap comedy and scream-queen horror, there are twice as many teen movie cliches to gleefully throw around. While the inventive idea keeps it enjoyable, the balance is sometimes uneven, leaving it neither as funny nor scary as it could be. And while it's basically a one-joke premise, director Christopher Landon and a terrific cast are having enough fun to make the movie a guilty pleasure.
The legend of the Blissfield Butcher (Vaughn) has been swirling for decades, and after killing four more teens, he he has acquired a supernaturally powerful Aztec dagger. Next in his sights is bright student Millie (Newton), but using the knife causes them to switch bodies. Millie's pals Nyla and Josh (O'Connor snd Osherovich) take some convincing that this middle-aged man is their best friend. Then some research reveals that they only have 24 hours to put things back the way they should be. But the Butcher is continuing his murder spree in Millie's body.
Introduced in a riotously grisly prologue, the Butcher is a recognisable mix of horror movie predators. And Millie's school life is amusingly diverse, with politically correct pals, a cop sister (Drori) and widowed mom (Finneran). So the central joke of inverting these two protagonists offers a range of witty gags, as the hulking Vaughn plays a terrified girl and Newton a psychopathic murderer with a sharper fashion sense. There's also a climactic party at the old mill, while most parents just happen to be out of town.

Vaughn seems to relish playing a 17-year-old girl, diving into physical comedy and emotional angst. So his interaction with O'Connor and Osherovich is remarkably engaging, as are some brightly played scenes with Shelton as Millie's hot-guy crush. Conversely, Newton reveals proper menace as the Butcher stalks anyone who happens to be nearby, using a full range of staggeringly vicious tools. And the various face-offs between these two are packed with snappy gags.

While most of the killing is played for laughs, there are several genuinely creepy sequences along the way, including a nasty set-piece in a Day-Glo cemetery-themed mini-golf course. And there's some strong suspense in how Millie and her friends race against the countdown. There's never much doubt about where the story is going, and the growing body count is casually shrugged off in lieu of silly or sweet nonsense. But it's such a clever idea that it can't help but keep us chuckling right to the requisite sting in the tale.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 23.Jun.21

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