“Freaky” stars Kathryn Newton, Vince Vaughn, Uriah Shelton, Alan Ruck, Katie Finneran, Celeste O’Connor, and Misha Osherovich. Released on November 13, 2020, the film is about a high school student who switches bodies with a serial killer.
The film was directed by Christopher Landon, who also directed films such as “Burning Palms”, “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones”, “Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse”, and “Happy Death Day”. You know what a high school student’s worst nightmare is, aside from figuring out what to wear for prom or attempting to get a good grade from your least favorite class? Being trapped in a murderer’s body. Now that’s something that’ll put a dent on your school record. You all might be wondering why it took me this long to review this film. Let’s just say that I’m more focused on surviving the pandemic. I was hoping to see it in the theater on opening weekend, but due to some unexpected plans outside of reviewing movies, I decided to wait until it’s available on demand so that I can watch it safely at the comfort of my own home. It’s been a long wait, so let’s see if it’s worth it. After finding success with the “Happy Death Day” films, Christopher Landon is now seeking to maintain his new-found reputation with the latest slasher comedy that is loosely inspired by Mary Rodger’s 1972 children’s novel, Freaky Friday. So, if someone asks you what would happen if they make a horror version of Freaky Friday, you show them this. Landon was able to find his footing after starting off rough in terms of his ingenious ideas, most notably in horror films. He came up with the idea of a “Groundhog Day”-themed slasher comedy in the form of “Happy Death Day”, which I thought was pretty entertaining and surprisingly effective when it comes to the story. He was then able to take things even further with the 2019 follow-up by adding sci-fi elements into the mix, resulting in a worthy successor that’s very close to being as good as its predecessor. This film sees Landon returning to the slasher comedy route, this time with a body-swap twist. Yep, instead of a victim reliving the same day over and over again every time they get murdered, the victim will be switching bodies with the killer. I guess you can say that it’s a killer new look. Does it work well enough to continue Landon’s winning streak? Let’s find out.
The story is best described as an adult-rated version of Disney’s “Freaky Friday”, minus the Disney magic. The victims of the body switch scenario are Millie Kessler (Newton), a bullied high school student, and the Blissfield Butcher (Vaughn), a middle-aged serial killer who has a taste for murder. The Butcher uses an ancient dagger known as La Dola to kill her, but it turns out that it switches their bodies instead. Now trapped in the Butcher’s body, Millie must find a way to get back into her own body and stop the Butcher before the spell becomes permanent. For a film like this to work, it needs to accomplish a few things. It needs to have a fun plot, a good amount of laughs, tolerable characters, some frights, and heart. Those things alone are what made the “Happy Death Day” films enjoyable in my eyes, and after finally watching it for myself, I can easily say that they also work well for “Freaky”. Although its blend of horror, comedy, and heart faltered a bit due to its genre cliches and its lack of strong scares, Chris Landon managed to make this twisty concept work by providing an entertaining and hilarious take on the body-swap situation. This is because of the main leads, the enjoyable characters, and its well-executed brand of humor. Vince Vaughn was an absolute blast from start to finish. When he’s a teen-killing machine, he’s pretty good, but when he’s a teenage girl who’s trapped in the body of a middle-aged man, that’s when he got the chance to show his stuff, and boy, does he deliver! In terms of his comedic roles, I would say that this was one of his best roles of his career so far. As for Kathryn Newton, I thought she did a nice job as well as both Millie and the Blissfield Butcher (in Millie’s body, of course). Similar to Vaughn’s performance, Newton’s performance was quite effective in mastering two different roles in the same body. That sounded a lot better in my head. What’s also nice about Newton’s role was Millie herself as she struggles to find the strength within herself, especially with her being bullied in high school and dealing with the loss of her father. While the execution on this character didn’t match the potency that Jessica Rothe’s Tree brought to the table in “Happy Death Day”, Newton still made a good effort in making her character likable. Celeste O’Connor and Misha Osherovich were also quite enjoyable in their roles as Nyla and Josh respectively, especially the latter. When I first saw Josh, I was concerned that he might become an unbearable nuisance due to his rude humor, but after a while, he started to grow on me. I honestly thought that he had some very amusing moments, although he couldn’t quite top Vaughn’s brilliant moments in my opinion. Speaking of which, I was not disappointed with how they handled the comedy aspect. It’s downright hilarious, but it’s also balanced well with its fun, creepy, and sometimes heartfelt story. Even though I found the horror aspect to be quite average at best, the film was able to make up for this issue by providing some nifty kills. There were a couple of them that were a bit over-the-top, but man, Landon sure did know how to make them fun to watch. Wow, just saying that made me feel like a psycho as well. If you’re not a fan of R-rated horror films that have people getting killed off in gory fashion, “Freaky” might not be able to win you over.
Overall, while far from Landon’s best film, “Freaky” is a non-stop bloody joy ride that’s just as crazy as spending Friday the 13th skydiving with Jason Voorhees. The performances from the main leads were top-notch (especially Vaughn), the comedy was hysterical, and the story was enjoyable enough to compensate for its cliches and some weak scares. In other words, I had a really fun time watching it despite the fact that I still believe that “Happy Death Day” is the director’s best film. It’s available on demand as of this writing, so if you’re in a mood for some frights and laughs, try giving this one a shot. It’s to die for.