The slasher genre has existed for decades and just when it seems to exhaust itself, it manages to find new ways to revive again, like its killer stars tend to do sequel to sequel. In the case of Blumhouse, they found success in Christopher Landon’s Happy Death Day films which combined the genre with the time-loop comedy trope found in movies like Groundhog Day. Now, Landon’s returned with a new slasher mash-up, and it’s a killer!
Millie (Kathryn Newton, Big Little Lies) is an ordinary teenage girl who lives in the ordinary and seemingly peaceful small town of Blissfield. Despite the Norman Rockwell decor, the citizens are under siege from a maniacal masked murderer known only as The Blissfield Butcher (Vince Vaughn, Brawl In Cellblock 99) who’s picking off teens left and right. One night, the Blissfield Butcher stabs Millie with a mystical dagger he found in one of his previous victim’s possession but she’s saved at the last second, leaving them both wounded. The next morning however, they wake up to find their souls have switched bodies! Now Millie has just one day to get her original body back before the change is permanent and The Blissfield Butcher continues his killing spree.
Needless to say, this is a twisted twist on the old Freaky Friday flip where one person’s mind is switched with another’s, usually their polar opposite for additional comedic effect. The title of Freaky making it pretty evident. But this is the first time I think it’s been played for horror alongside comedy! Kathryn Newton and Vince Vaughn really shine as they switch characters and personas through a majority of the movie. The Blissfield Butcher a towering, intimidating monster, but with the mind of Millie, he becomes an awkward teenage girl in a hulking killer’s body! There are even several points where each character adjust to their new body’s newfound strengths and weaknesses. The Blissfield Butcher in Millie’s body realizing he can’t just overpower his victims anymore and utilizes cunning and speed to get the jump on his victims.
Which is another thing, Freaky does not hold back on the gore and kill scenes! Some complaints were made about the Happy Death Day series being a little ‘tame’ bound into its PG-13 rating, but Freaky has an ‘R’ rating and deservedly so. There are some excellent examples of inventive slasher deaths and over the top splatter via power tools and everyday items like bottles. Don’t want spoil any of them, but believe me when I say they’re memorable. My only complaint being that they feel a bit oddly paced toward the middle and end of the movie. The tempo breaks a little bit due to plot reasons, so it’s not exactly a rapid fire bloodfest, but there’s still plenty of bodycount to go around. But for the most part it does a decent job at the genre balancing act and following Millie in The Blissfield Butcher’s body and vice-versa.
Director Christopher Landon and writer Michael Kennedy do an excellent job of combining the tropes of the two decidedly different genres to make a bloody slasher and a fun ‘race against the clock’ movie as Millie figures out she has to get her body back fast. As well as establishing its supporting cast of Millie’s friends, family, and enemies (who tend to meet a gory demise at the hand of the Blissfield Butcher switched Millie). Even featuring a romantic sub-plot that feels organic instead of distracting.
I was fortunate enough to attend the world premiere at Beyond Fest’s drive-in variation of their annual festival at Mission Tiki in Montclair, California. In the wake of the pandemic, seeing a new movie on a big screen has been a joy that words alone cannot express. There were even promotional Freaky face masks taken from the poster. Freaky felt right at home in a drive-in cinema and made a fine double feature with the 2010 classic horror-comedy Tucker And Dale vs Evil chosen specifically by Landon and Kennedy.
Overall, Freaky is an unimaginable slasher/body swap comedy that manages to work. It’s got a lot of laughs and scenes to make you scream.
Freaky will be released in theaters on November 13th, 2020.