Freaky” has slasher-flick moments and it has comedic moments, but never at the same time, leading to a patchwork hybrid that always feels like a slick Blumhouse product, never something you can get swept away by. On the other hand, Vince Vaughn and Kathryn Newton (“Blockers”) are on point playing a teen girl and a serial killer, respectively. While this doesn’t rank among the great body-switch films, the two leads are always on their game.
Director/co-writer Christopher Landon also made the “Happy Death Day” duology, which similarly uses an old premise (in that case, the repeating day) and runs with it. Those are slightly better movies than this one because their identity is quickly established as a goofy comedy within a horror framework.
“Freaky” – which they probably would’ve called “Freaky Friday the 13th” but for copyright issues — doesn’t quite find its footing. It starts with the standard slasher sequence of four teens drinking and scaring each other with tales of the Blissfield Butcher, who kills some students every homecoming. This cold open is well-crafted in the way where it’s tense in the moment but won’t leave you with lingering dread. More disappointingly, it doesn’t say anything about the genre despite slightly calling to mind the winking Kevin Williamson vibe.
The jokes come after the body-switch, and they are what you’d expect, such as The Butcher and Millie noticing their new genitalia. But “Freaky” doesn’t go all-in on its humor potential. It’s more of a character piece, with a little something to say about the nature of being an unpopular teenage girl or a strong serial killer.
It’s fun to see Vaughn (The Butcher, before the switch) run and scream in the fashion of Newton (Millie, before the switch), and to see Newton glower and revel in her newfound amoral freedom. The Butcher has a blast in his new body, while Millie has to wear an Aaron Rodgers mask (an amusing sight) to avoid being tabbed as The Butcher. But it’s a pro-and-con thing: Millie enjoys the new physical strength and The Butcher is annoyed by his lessened strength.
Landon and co-writer Michael Kennedy nicely create family and friends around Millie, including a widowed mom (Katie Finneran), a cop sister (Dana Drori) and besties Nyla (Celeste O’Connor) and Josh (Misha Osherovich).
“Freaky” is a little too random to take seriously, even within its own rules. I love the setting of a haunted-house mini-golf course, but I puzzle over why there is a cryogenic chamber in a high school locker room. Was there a cryogenic chamber left over from another Blumhouse production?
Still, it’s entertaining to watch Vaughn play a teen girl and Newton play a brooding killer. Comedy veteran Vaughn is so obviously good that I was actually drawn in more by Newton as she relishes playing against her nice-girl type. These performances make “Freaky” worth watching, but the movie is always skin deep, without many scares or laughs that will stick with you after switching back to reality.