Over the past ten years, we’ve seen a resurgence of the horror genre and the person most responsible for this renaissance of the macabre is producer Jason Blum and his production Blumhouse which has made some of the best and most memorable horror films like Insidious, The Purge, Get Out, Happy Death Day, Halloween (2018) and The Invisible Man (2020) but their latest offering, Freaky, is the latest feather in their cap. The film provides a twist on the body swap concept and blends it with a brand new horror film. Thanks to great comedic performances with a sprinkling of trope-tastic horror that makes for a viewing experience on par with Scream, this is a Freaky review.
Please be advised that this review WILL contain spoilers. If you wish for your experience to be spoiler-free, please stop reading here, check out the film and read this afterward.
Thanks in part to a mythical dagger because a body swap film wouldn’t be complete without some sort of cursed object or spell that causes the two individuals to swap bodies, The Butcher played by Vince Vaugh and Millie Kessler played by Kathryn Newton. Vaughn has had several questionable roles over the past few years including season two of True Detective and effectively had forced himself off the comedic radar. Vaughn essentially began his film career in comedic roles after starring alongside Jon Favreau in Swingers, but he then tried to establish himself as a dramatic actor while appearing in several poorly received films like the remake of Psycho, The Cell, and Domestic Disturbance. But after starring in Old School, Dodgeball, Wedding Crashers, and The Break Up all within a three year period, he had cemented his status as an effective comedic actor. It was refreshing to see him return to comedy in spite of the horror setting as he plays a young 17-year-old girl that is trapped in his serial killer body. While in the Butcher’s body, she discovers newfound confidence with the Butcher’s physical strength and quickly figures out that men are gross since the Butcher was comfortable wearing grimy clothes and smelling like hot dog water. It’s great fun to watch Vaughn squeal like a girl at his discovery of the body swap and when he finds new victims of the Butcher’s killing spree.
On this opposite side of this body swap romp is Millie who at first is a shy, timid but caring individual who’s dealing with a not so grand home life. Her father has passed prior to the start of the film, her mother is an alcoholic and her older sister has disconnected herself from the family and threw herself into her work as a police officer. Millie has found a group of close friends but she frequently finds herself the target of bullies, crude sexual remarks from the football players, and an unforgiving teacher who loves to torment her in shop class. After nearly becoming the Butcher’s latest victim, she immediately flips her personality when the Butcher has occupied her body. She becomes withdrawn and silent and even attempts to massacre her family before going to school in an outfit that’s a complete 180 from her normal attire and while she confronts the Butcher’s body in school, the real Butcher in Millie’s body uses the greatest weapon ever created, a terrified white girl that gets the attention of the police.
In spite of the comedy previously outlined, it manages to pay homage to slasher films that came before and subvert the tropes we’ve come to expect with the genre. Let’s look at the prologue to the film. Big red letters indicate to us that the film begins on Wednesday the 11th and will end on Friday the 13th and we’re introduced to a group of teenagers who are sharing urban legends about the infamous Blissfield Butcher with varying degrees of believability. They’re drinking and sex is implied so thanks to the training we’ve received from past slasher films, we know that this group has been marked for death due to their misbehavior. After the teens have separated in a massive gothic-style mansion, they’re quickly dispatched in creative ways similar to kills shown in the Halloween and the Friday the 13th franchises and the Blissfield Butcher even wears a mask similar to Jason’s in the Friday the 13th films. But these first ten minutes or so play up all of the tropes; misbehaving teens, creative & brutal murders, and a hiding teen who’s later killed when she tries to run, and in a nod to Scream, the victim is found by her parents as they return home.
The rest of the movie is good bloody fun because while the Butcher is inhabiting Millie, he exacts bloody revenge on the school bullies, the jocks who wanted to sexualize her, and the teacher who lived to torment Millie. Yes, someone is bifurcated on a massive table saw, but it’s also a coming of age story as Millie, while she’s trapped in the Butcher’s body, initially revels in the physical strength of the body and even confronts a bully who scared her in one of the few jump scares in the film, but she’s also reminded that physical strength only gets you so far; true strength comes from within. It’s only while she’s in the Butcher’s body that Millie gains the confidence to speak to her crush and even manages to save him from becoming the Butcher’s latest victim. Millie manages to repair her relationship with her mother and sister and realizes that while it’s nice to live and care for others, at the end of the day, you have to take care of yourself and ultimately do what’s best for yourself.
Even the ending of the film is ripped from The Silence of the Lambs as the Butcher fakes his death and escapes from an ambulance and manages to track down Millie and her family as he intends to finish them off. In an odd moment of connection, the Butcher remarks that he can sense that Millie feels lonely, has to contend with her mother and feeling marginalized by the world around her, and offers to end her suffering. As brutal as serial killers can be, they are attuned to the thoughts of others and they are predators in every sense of the word. They are able to sniff out the weakest among us and make them victims of their wrath. Just as he is about to finish her off, Millie and her family unite and manage to kill the Butcher.
In what has been the strangest year ever, Freaky gave me a good chance to go to a theater, enjoy a film for nearly two hours and take my mind off the state of the world. If you do feel compelled to see Freaky in the theater, please stay safe and I encourage practicing social distancing (most theaters are already planning for this in their seating arrangements) and wear a mask. If you aren’t ready to go to a theater with strangers just yet, be patient. The film will be released on digital on-demand on November 30th.
Freaky is directed by Christopher Landon and stars Vince Vaughn, Kathryn Newton, Celeste O’Connor, Misha Osherovich, and Alan Ruck. It is in theaters now and available on digital on-demand beginning November 30th.
Feature Image Credit: IMDb