Freaky is a horror-comedy twist on Freaky Friday, only instead of a girl swapping bodies with her mother, she instead swaps bodies with a middle-aged male serial killer with a penchant for killing teenagers. If she doesn’t find a way to revert back to her body within 24 hours, the girl will be trapped in the male killer’s body forever. I usually find anything starring Vince Vaughn to be pretty hit and miss so I was skeptical going in. However, it didn’t take long for me to be sold on Vaughn in this gruesomely fun adventure that pays homage to many iconic horror films.
Millie (Kathryn Newton) is a teenager in highschool who for some strange and not obvious reason (other than being written that way in the script) is generally treated like a loser by fellow students and teachers. Despite being obviously beautiful – it’s Kathryn Newton – she can’t for the same strange reason land a boyfriend or even get noticed by guys. To make life more tough, her father passed away a year ago and her mother is an alcoholic who tends to pass out drunk and then forget to pick her up from school. Life has dished out a harsh hand, even for the pretty.
Fortunately for Millie, she has two great friends, Nyla (Celeste O’Connor) and Josh (Misha Osherovich) who always have her back whenever she needs help. Except for tonight, when Millie’s mum got drunk and didn’t pick her up. Tonight, Millie almost becomes victim number five but is saved just in time by her police officer sister Charlene (Dana Drori), but not before being stabbed in the shoulder by The Butcher with his newly acquired dagger.
Things take a very strange turn when Millie and The Butcher wake up the next morning to find they have swapped bodies! That dagger The Butcher used to stab Millie has magical properties, of course, and unless Millie and her friends can retrieve it from police evidence and use it again within 24 hours, the change will become permanent. Finding himself in a body that’s not hunted by the authorities, The Butcher is happy for the change to stay permanent. He will do everything he can to prevent the change from being reversed so he can continue fulfilling his murderous urges as a girl nobody would suspect as being a killer.
Vince Vaughn deserves plenty of praise for his performance as both The Butcher and Millie. As the murderous serial killer, he perfectly embodies the towering physicality of a predator heavily inspired by the mask wearing Jason from the Friday The 13th franchise. He is without remorse, without compassion and downright intimidating. If you’d never seen any other Vince Vaughn movie then you’d be hard pressed to believe he has a career built upon comedy. He simply nails it.
Then just to show you how much talent he’s bringing, Vaughn then does a complete 180 personality flip portraying a teenage girl trapped inside a middle-aged man’s body. If you’ve seen Jack Black in Jumanji then you know exactly the type of performance I’m talking about – except Vince Vaughn is 6’ 5” and Kathryn Newton is much, much smaller, making the visual ridiculousness all the more funny.
He totally nails all the teenage girl mannerisms and reactions you’d expect when discovering you have a new physicality such as having increased size and different genitalia, as well as having new physical capabilities such as being able to pick up a high school bully due to increased strength. I get the feeling he had a good laugh playing this character.
Kathryn Newton is also great, completing the second half of the performance required to bring the characters of Millie and The Butcher to life. While there’s nothing wrong with her portrayal as an awkward high school girl who is bullied by her peers and teachers, I do think Newton is miscast as a character who is not noticed by the boys. The truth is Newton is a beautiful actress and it’s hard to believe her character when it’s obvious there would be plenty of guys looking at her because she looks like Amber Heard. Putting aside her model looks destroying the illusion of a girl who can’t get a boyfriend, Newton’s performance as Millie is solid.
Then just like Vaughn she shows us that as well as being able to play the likable hero, she can have a lot of fun being the brutal villain. And boy is she vicious. What I really love about how Newton plays the role of the killer is how the story acknowledges the physical differences between the two, and how she (he?) has to adjust in order to kill the victims.
Being inside a teenage girl’s body means The Butcher can no longer rely on sheer strength and body mass to overcome his prey. Instead, he (she?) must rely on getting more creative resulting in wonderfully horrific results.
Director Christopher Landon (Happy Death Day, Happy Death Day 2U), who also co-wrote the screenplay (Michael Kennedy), has once again done a great job balancing extreme violence with high school comedy. While there are elements that make it hard to suspend disbelief, such as casting a hot chick who can’t get a guy or having a freezing machine in a highschool that would allow for a body to be frozen and then shattered (still very cool to watch nonetheless), it’s easy to overlook these logic gaps thanks to the strong comedic performances from the cast and because it’s filled with many references to other horror movies.
Landon knows the genre inside-out, so rather than attempt something we haven’t seen before, he’s put everything we’ve come to expect from a horror film into an otherwise routine teenage comedy, and it works. This also means a smorgasbord of horror franchise references are scattered throughout to keep an eye out for, which is especially enjoyable for fellow horror nerds who love spotting things like that.
Freaky isn’t a brilliant horror-comedy, but it’s definitely an enjoyable one that manages to add new life to the Freaky Friday body-swapping formula. Sure, there’s nothing original here, but that’s the point. Don’t overthink it. Take some of the best bits from horror classics and mix them all together in a single film while you check your brain at the door. With impressive performances from its two headliners – Vaughn in particular – and strong performances from all the cast, this turned out to be a surprisingly good laugh.