After swapping bodies with a deranged serial killer, a young girl in high school discovers she has less than 24 hours before the change becomes permanent.
Not as sharp as his previous efforts in the meta-horror genre, Happy Death Day and Happy Death Day 2U, Christopher Landon’s Freaky has nearly enough going for it to warrant 100 minutes of your time. A pastiche of horror genre tropes, all set up to be skewered through a post-modern lens, it ultimately reveals itself to be a rather slight exercise in horror-comedy, a film that comes alive at moments and flirts with greatness, only to be brought low by a script that isn’t nearly as clever as it wants to be. Serious pacing issues which fail to allow key narrative beats to develop don’t help either. Still, this exercise is nearly salvaged by a deft comic turn from Vince Vaughn as a teenage girl stuck in the boy of a serial killer.
The working title of the movie was Freaky Friday the 13th, a perfect summary of the film’s premise. Millie (Kathryn Newton) has a great deal on her plate. Reeling from her father’s death a year earlier, the high school senior is a bit lost. Withdrawn and a bit afraid to go on with her life, she isn’t quite sure what tomorrow will bring. Surely, she was not anticipating getting attacked by the Blissfield Butcher (Vaughn), a local urban legend who actually exists, yet that’s just what happens one night, the killer using an ancient dagger he stole from a collector of antiques.
It proves a fortuitous choice as it turns out to be an artifact of the Aztec culture, a knife used in virgin sacrifices that happens to have magical powers. The Butcher ends up only wounding Millie but something far more sinister happens as a result – Millie’s consciousness is now trapped in the body of the killer and vice versa, all of which sets up a body switch situation that leads to many cases of mistaken identity as well as a high body count.
It’s obvious Landon and his co-writer Michael Kennedy know the horror genre inside out. References to Scream, Halloween and Friday the 13th are prevalent throughout while Easter Eggs abound, visual allusions to a wide variety of fright flicks populating one scene after the next. (Kudos to Landon for his casting of Millie’s deceased father. John Carpenter fans will celebrate.) For fans of these movies, Freaky plays like an elaborate in-joke.
Too bad not nearly as much time was spent on the script. While I don’t mind the simplistic nature of the premise, very little is done to build upon it. Millie’s now a killer, the Butcher is now a teenage girl and…that’s about it. There are far too many wasted opportunities as Landon ironically falls into the trap the trips up so many horror film directors, the penchant to concentrate on violent set pieces rather than character development. What starts off as pleasant devolves into a series of unimaginative scenes that serve to bridge from one gory moment to another. The violence is particularly gruesome and gratuitous, so much so that it takes the viewer out of the film.
However, Vaughn is a delight, his 6’ 5” frame flitting about with the energy of a manic teen, her insecurities made real with nervous nail-chewing and averted glances. It’s obvious the actor is having a great time and had the film given him another scene or three, it may have been enough to save it. However, in the end Freaky winds up being a rather slight affair, a movie with a clever premise in need of a sense of wit as sharp as the many bloody butcher knives it displays.
2 1/2 Stars
Body swapping films aren’t a new concept. In fact, there have been more than a dozen over the last several decades including the most famous one “Freaky Friday” starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan upon which the newest Vince Vaughn horror flick by Blumhouse Productions loosely borrows their title. Looking back through history, from the original 1973 version of “Freaky Friday” starring Jodie Foster and based on Mary Rogers’ book to Tom Hanks in “Big,” Jennifer Garner in “Going on 30,” and even Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s “Jumanji” series, all of these films are comedies at the heart. “Freaky,” on the other hand, is a gruesome horror movie from start to finish with just a touch of comedy if you can stomach the rest.
To read the review in its entirety, go to: