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Debuting a body-swap movie titled Freaky on a Friday and never once name-checking the 2003 Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis-starring seminal classic is a betrayal I can never forgive. Otherwise, Blumhouse’s latest horror comedy is pretty freakin’ amazing.
A bloody brilliant lesson in problem solving, bounty hunting, and confidence.
Directed by Happy Death Day’s Christopher Landon, Freaky transports viewers to a small town with a big murder problem. The Blissfield Butcher, played by Vince Vaughn (at first), has been terrorizing teenagers in the area for decades. Now, he’s back, out to chainsaw cheerleaders and skewer skateboarders at the local high school’s homecoming dance.
Enter Millie Kessler, played by Kathryn Newton (also at first), a down-on-her-luck outcast with some mean bullies, a lot of family drama, and some seemingly Carrie-inspired fashion sense. When fate lands Millie and the Butcher on the Blissfield Valley High School football field with an ancient human sacrifice dagger, the two come to blows (that’s generous phrasing, Millie is not strong) and Millie gets stabbed. But when the Butcher discovers he’s magically also been wounded by the stab — Whaaaat? — he flees into the night and Millie returns to her normal life.
Or at least she would have, if she hadn’t woken up the next day in a derelict building, inexplicably inhabiting the Butcher’s body as some guy offers to have sex with her for drugs. („I’ll suck your dick! All of it!“) Meanwhile, the Butcher wakes up in Millie’s comfortable suburban home, where Millie’s mom brushes his hair, makes him french toast, and lets him borrow her red motorcycle jacket and some matching lipstick before he heads off to school…as Millie. Yeah, it’s a yikes.
What follows that horrific (and ridiculous) development is a bloody brilliant lesson in problem solving, bounty hunting, and confidence that’s at once tremendously stupid and unceasingly charming. Surprisingly cuddly for your average slasher, Freaky leans into the apparent predictability of the body-swap gimmick to provide an experience that’s low on scares and surprises, but high on character development, comedy, and kills.
Low on scares and surprises, but high on character development, comedy, and kills.
The premise, which shouldn’t work nearly as well as it does, offers a stable background for the performers and special effects to revel in their own chaos. Vaughn and Newton shine equally in their respective takes on the Butcher and Millie, never quite achieving Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle levels of perfection but getting close. The supporting performances too, especially those of Celeste O’Connor and Misha Osherovich, who play Millie’s best friends Nyla and Josh, offer a lot to love.
Freaky’s comedic but still graphic kills (tennis racket through the skull, wine bottle inserted into the throat, extreme chilling chamber applied to the uh…everything, etc.) provide plenty of shocking material for the likable cast to play with and react to, as well as just enough horror needed to meet the scare requirements of a Blumhouse romp.
It’s an imperfect film, that occasionally indulges in jokes beneath its caliber. (OK, I’ll admit Millie as the Butcher accidentally spraying pee all over the bathroom with her brand new penis was pretty funny.) And the final act leaves something to be desired; it’s a whole lot like another popular ending in recent Blumhouse history, and that’s all I’m going to say about that. Still, Freaky is a great movie — one I’d love to see in theaters.
Folks bombarded with positive Freaky reviews, like this one, this Nov. 13 weekend may be surprised to learn the scary movie is not available on demand quite yet. As part of a new distribution deal between Universal Pictures and AMC theaters, Freaky will be in theaters exclusively for three weeks before appearing digitally in early December. The business model could mean interesting things for future release schedules, but for now means many wannabe Freaky fans will be left out in the cold. because of COVID-19.
It’s yet another offshoot of the nightmare we’re currently living in that not everyone will get to enjoy this movie at the same time. That said, if you can safely make it to a drive-in, I’d say Freaky makes it worth it. An unexpected gift in our post-Halloween 2020 (RIP) world, this heartwarming horror show swapped my grimace for a smile — a transformation well worth the price of admission.
Freaky is in theaters Nov. 13 and will be available through digital and video-on-demand in early December.