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 JoshuaDirected 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
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.