Horror is a genre known for being a bit formulaic. That’s why even the simplest merging of premises, combined with a good execution can lead to a memorable payoff. That’s exactly what we get with ‘Freaky’ which blends Freaky Friday with Friday The 13th.
Freaky is a horror-comedy written by Christopher Landon and Staring Vince Vaughn and Kathryn Newton. Millie (Newton) is a tormented young high schooler, bullied at school and smothered by her overbearing mom since the death of her father. And on top of all this, she finds herself swapping bodies with a serial killer hot on her trail. Whilst Millie and her friends try to get her body back, the Blissfield Butcher proceeds with his killing spree, now armed with Millie’s appearance.
The premise of the movie is a great example of simple yet effective. While the slasher sub-genre of horror can certainly induce genuine fright, the endless years of Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street sequels have firmly rooted it in the camp section of the horror pantheon. Killers in cool masks butchering braindead victims in the most over-the-top violent way possible.
Freaky understands this and uses the almost slapstick nature of the genre to its advantage. The film has your standard teen horror trappings. All the classic slasher characters are here—the bully alpha girls, the dumb horny jocks, the douchey teachers—but within a comedic framing, these cliches feel a bit more interesting. They’re one-note and over the top intentionally for comedic effect which in turn makes their inevitable over-the-top deaths all the more humorous.
Alongside all the comedy, Freaky is still very much a horror movie and that means it also brings some good old fashion gore. The special effects are well done, giving a realistic sense of blood and dismemberment. The kills aren’t too frequent but have a gruesome sense of brutality and creativity. Hooks, chainsaws, and a cryotherapy tank are used to great effect.
Millie doesn’t stand out much as the main character and her story is one heard many times. She’s an insecure high school girl with a crush on a boy and wanting independence from her mother who’s been using her as a crutch since her father’s passing. She doesn’t have much meaningful development and isn’t too memorable among a sea of awkward high school girls.
You’re far more likely to remember Vaughn, acting as Mille in the butcher’s body. Both Vaughn and Newton do a fantastic jobbut in particular Vaughn’s portrayal of a high school girl trapped in a middle-aged man stands out as hilarious. Despite his low-pitched booming voice, he’s able to riddle each line with that familiar hint of teenage awkwardness and insecurity. He is easily the highlight of the film and is able to find a balance between the ridiculousness of the character and still being a convincing 17-year-old.
On the other hand, The Blissfield Butcher is a fun antagonist. While not having a mask or being mute, the character is quiet and intimidating leading to them being both an imposing threat but also quite funny when interacting with the rest of the cast, sometimes going between the two in one scene. Newton pulls this off incredibly, able to come off as the sadistic prowling predator against a person almost twice her height in Vaughn.
The body-swap humor between the two is used to good effect. It’s fun watching the butcher get used to being in the physically weaker body of a high school girl but also come to rely on new talents like using the persona to get victims to lower their guard. Likewise, watching the middle-aged teenager hide from the cops and having to flirt with her own teenage crush is the best kind of strangely funny.
There’s also Millie’s mother (Katie Finneran) and older sister (Dana Driori) who serve Millie’s emotional conflict. Having recently lost Millie’s father, the mother is now overbearing, wanting to spend a suffocating amount of time with her daughter. Her sister, a police officer, opposes this and tells Millie to stand up for herself more. They are both involved with the serial killer plot later on but neither is truly that interesting. They are acceptable as a part of our main character’s arc but can be fairly forgettable as people on their own.
Despite this Freaky is still a safe but creative flick. It’s not a grand deconstruction of the slasher genre and most of the genre standards remain intact. It does however have a unique premise and the humorous tinge adds a refreshing vibrancy to the film. Its two leads are entertaining and well-acted in both roles. They hold up the film and make for more memorable scenarios and interactions. Overall, if you’re a fan of the more campy, over-the-top side of the horror genre, this is an affectionate parody. It takes the genre’s more relatively light-hearted ideas and puts them into commendable blood-splattered comedy.
Freaky can be enjoyed for what it is. A light-hearted horror movie that plays with the ideas of its genre for comedic effect. If you’re a horror fan that’s looking for an old-fashioned slasher with some new tricks, this is one that will keep you satisfied.
Words By Alex Daud Briggs
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