A film review by Craig J. Koban December 22, 2020 


2020, R, 101 mins.

Vince Vaughn as Blissfield Butcher  /  Kathryn Newton as Millie Kessler  /  Alan Ruck as Mr. Fletcher  /  Katie Finneran as Paula Kessler  /  Celeste O'Connor as Nyla  /  Misha Osherovich as Joshua

Directed by Christopher Landon  /  Written by Landon and Michael Kennedy

The new Blumhouse produced horror comedy FREAKY is a wicked combination of FRIDAY THE 13TH and FREAKY FRIDAY, with the former being a mad slasher flick and the latter being a body swap comedy.  It comes from director Christopher Landon, who previously helmed the very funny and underrated HAPPY DEATH DAY, which was a fairly novel GROUNDHOG DAY copycat, albeit with horror film trappings.  Although FREAKY scores some laughs when it needs to and will definitely appease those of the slasher genre (it's shockingly gory at times), I finished my at-home VOD screening of it thinking that it's not quite as fresh with the underlining body swap premise as it thinks it is.  Even though I admired the thanklessly in tune lead performances by Vince Vaughn and Kathryn Newton, FREAKY nevertheless lacked a truly subversive clever edge. 

Landon has been know to re-appropriate old material and put his own unique spin on it, and FREAKY is no exception.  Obviously, those familiar with FREAKY FRIDAY - and the many permutations of it that have followed over the years - will be familiar with what FREAKY is up to: Two people from two completely different walks of life and ages swap bodies, but with all of their personality quirks intact.  FREAKY, to be fair, takes a nifty twist with this in terms of having a masked and psychotic serial killer of teenagers magically swap bodies with one of his young victims.  This is all done unintentionally, of course, and via a very old and ancient form of power facilitating such a transition, and when one thinks of all of the deviously sly things that a filmmaker could do with this concept it helps with the initial buy-in during the film's opening third.  Unfortunately, the resulting cinematic cocktail here is kind of a befuddling one, which mixes low key campy, self-aware horror genre humor and a lot of grisly mayhem and carnage, all of which seems to be waging a war with each other for dominance.  There are times when FREAKY wants to be light as a feather and pretty carefree in its approach, but then it shifts to numbing sequences of nauseating violence, oftentimes to the whiplashing effects on viewers. 

The main teenage protagonist here is Millie (Newton, so good in 2018's very little seen, but hysterical BLOCKERS), who's one of those abnormally shy and introverted high schoolers that's alienated from most of her peers and even teachers.  Before we meet her, though, FREAKY offers up a pretty stellar opening sequence that seems to be taking many of its aesthetic cues from iconic slasher films of the 80s.  Two high school couples are gathered together at a parentless home talking about the upcoming Homecoming Dance while sharing stories about the urban legend of the "Blissfield Butcher", a masked madmen that bares an eerie resemblance to Jason Voorhees in terms of look, temperament, and methods.  Well, the Butcher himself (Vaughn) does show up and murders these kids in the most gruesome manner possible, who then looks towards his next possible batch of victims, probably at the aforementioned Homecoming Dance. 



This brings is back to Millie herself, and she's so mousy and physically vulnerable that you just know that she'll be completely unable to defend herself in any way from the deranged murderer that is the Butcher.  When she's not seeking solace in her widowed mother (Katie Finneran) and police officer sister (Dana Drori), Millie hangs out with her BFFS in Nyla (Celeste O'Connor) and Josh (Misha Osherovich) for comfort away from the harsher aspects of school bullies and reality in general.  Of course, cruel fate steps in one night and Millie finds herself being chased by the Butcher, and just when he goes in for the killing stab with a magical dagger (in his possession) he accidentally fouls up and - poof! - when both wake up the next morning they're shocked to find out that they have switched bodies.  Millie is shocked to now have the physique of a tall middle aged man, whereas the Butcher himself sees whole new clandestine possibilities with using his teenage girl facade to lure more of his prey in.  After engaging in the nearly impossible task of convincing her friends of what happened, Millie learns that the mystical clock is ticking and only has 24 hours to re-swap bodies with the Butcher...or be stuck as him forever. 

FREAKY does have some macabre fun in exploring what it would be like for stalker and prey to swap bodies, especially for Millie, who's been a young women beleaguered by so much loss and hardship in her life that now can physically defend herself with great ease from just about any school bully or teacher.  The Butcher, on the other hand, makes the most of his situation and gives Millie a wardrobe makeover with attitude to make her look more with it to her peers, but he also uses Millie's body to easily blend in with all of the school kids that he's been wanting to murder-death-kill.  The performances are absolutely key here to selling this outlandish illusion, and the finest aspect of FREAKY is how deeply committed both Vaughn and Newton are with their respective dual roles.  Newton gets to play both the meek mannered sufferer and the relentlessly sex kittened up monster that relishes in death (albeit with the annoying side effect now of being unable to physically attack people with the same ruthless ease as before).  Vaughn definitely has the flashier role of the two, who has a comedic field day plausibly relaying that his form is now being controlled by a deeply disturbed female adolescent that's in over her head.  Vaughn is also unnervingly credible playing the mad slasher in question in the early stages of the film (he's so often known for comedies that many forgot of how effective he could be in more serious parts). 

I liked the game supporting cast here as well, and O'Connor and Osherovich achieving minor performance miracles with otherwise cliché riddled side characters: The know it all best friend and, yes, the very outwardly gay male bestie (the script does have some fun at their expense, with Osherovich's Josh at one point - and while being chased by the Butcher - screaming "You're black, I'm gay!  We're dead!!!").  There's a sense of happy-go-lucky buoyancy to the spirit of this film, and even when Landon mightily struggles when some laughs don't pay off handsomely, you're still left engaged and smiling at an awful lot of what's transpiring.  I will say, though, that there's maybe too many times in FREAKY when it obviously and distractingly tries to pilfer out of the SCREAM playbook in terms of dropping many wink-wink/nudge-nudge referencing with the characters being fully aware of the type of film they're occupying.  More times than not, the humor in FREAKY scores decent chuckles, but much of it feels derivative and uninspired, especially when compared to other better horror-comedies. 

It's also kind of disappointing how much gas this film starts lacking in terms of making it to the finish line and a sense of closure, and then when it does reach what should be a decent ending it goes on with a needlessly tacked on sequence to pad what should have been a lean and tight 90 minute film.  Maybe Landon and company aren't really trying to re-invent the body swap/slasher genre wheel, but there's so much more ripe potential with their premise that it leaves you really wanting (just think alone of the possible gender politics at play here and how a girl finds very strange inspiration to become more self actualized...so much is left to the imagination).  And - I'm no prude - but FREAKY is so freakishly vicious and disgusting in its bloodletting (it absolutely earns its R) that it never coalesces smoothly with the film's broad sitcom pratfalls or its meager attempts at dramatic sincerity with Millie's growing pains.  FREAKY doesn't seem to know what it wants to be throughout much of its running time, and it throws many ingredients into a blender and hopes that the resulting mixture will go down smoothly.  I found the film to have some well orchestrated genre thrills and a mischievous spirit, but it's ultimately a disposable and forgettable mishmash lacking it true creative inspiration. 

  H O M E