It’s Time 2 Get ‘Freaky’ (Movie Review)

On Friday the 13th, a deranged killer with a final girl’s body will wreak havoc at Blissfield High. The body-swap trope gets a slasher makeover (or is it the other way around?) in Christopher Landon’s new genre mashup. Vince Vaughn is the knife-wielding maniac, and Big Little Lies‘ Kathryn Newton is a shy teen who won’t seem so shy once an ancient dagger magically links the two together. Hilarity and some pretty gnarly deaths abound. Let the kill count commence as things are about to get Freaky!

After a quick opening introduces us to the legend of The Blissfield Butcher, a gaggle of dumb teenagers get “taken care of.” We won’t see Vaughn’s face for a few minutes, but there was no hiding the actor’s large frame from me. I’ve been a fan of his since Swingers when he was much thinner but still crazy tall. Knowing Vaughn is the guy wearing a mask who slices and dices was a strange sensation. Here’s an actor known more for his boisterous one-liners than subtle non-verbal cues. And yet, Vaughn is totally creepy (more so than when he played Norman Bates in Gus Van Sant’s Psycho remake). This scene’s point is to sell Vaughn as a killer and have his murderous character acquire an ancient artifact that will, unbeknownst to him, cause a body swap the next time he uses it.

That turns out to be Millie Kessler (Newton), a shy teen who seems to hide from her Blissfield High classmates by way of an oversized Beaver outfit (she’s the team mascot). Millie has two outcast pals who can do the mascot dance on the fly, which is adorable. She also has an older sister (Kelly Lamor Wilson) who happens to be a local sheriff, which will undoubtedly come in handy in the third act. Meanwhile, co-writer/director Landon populates the rest of the student body with mean girls and predatory jocks, so when the killing starts, we’re more than primed to laugh.

Of course, this is a movie, and only in a movie would the blonde not at all unattractive Newton be treated like a loser. That’s part of the fun, I suppose, but I was way more engaged seeing Jessica Rothe’s superior work in Landon’s breakout Happy Death Day a few years back (and to a lesser extent the sequel.) It’s not that Newton doesn’t pull off “awkward teen” as much as it feels like a less interesting way to garner our sympathy.

Of course, the bulk of the film features Newton’s non-shy performance as Millie, as she has a killer inside of her. Still, this is mostly just Newton giving stern glances and perhaps looks at a kitchen knife a bit too long while near her mother (the always reliable Katie Finneran). I wished the “evil Millie” had more to do. This idea of the final girl getting to be the killer is a great one.  And she does get to kill a lot of people in pretty bloody ways (a table saw was my favorite), but there’s a feeling of “is that it?” to the possessed teen that left me wanting. Although the empowerment of seeing Newton brandish many weapons of torture is loaded in a delightfully progressive way.

On the other end, Vaughn acting like a teen girl is pretty hilarious. The Butcher in Millie is like watching a bull in a China shop, and it’s great. Even a scene where Millie as the Butcher pees in a restroom generated laughs from me. Vaughn really goes for it. Showing how weird and unruly it would be to have control over such a big hulking body. All the screen time with Vaughn feels spot on.

As fun as that is, I was surprised that once Millie’s friends accept that this big white, middle-aged dude is their best friend, they didn’t think what I was thinking. Namely, even if they can get Millie back into her teen girl body within 24 hours (or she’s in the body forever because curse), they won’t have to then take down a big strong guy? With no weapons, how is that even possible? (Oh right, Sheriff sister!) If this was a dumb teen flick that didn’t ask too many questions, it wouldn’t be a big deal, but Landon as writer urges his heroes to be better. And most of the time, Millie’s pals, Ryler (Celeste O’Connor) and Josh (Misha Oshervich), are doing just that. But somehow, “how do we take down the big serial killer” isn’t one of them.

Still, Vaughn’s performance really makes Freaky pop. Beyond the teen girl humor, there are some surprisingly tender moments — one involving Mille’s mom and another with Millie’s crush, Booker (Uriah Shelton). Gender-swapping could easily get problematic in 2020, so it’s a credit to Freaky that it (mostly) doesn’t.

Freaky is a solid, if not amazing, slasher pic. I don’t think it needs a sequel (although it sorta sets up one). I’m way more interested in seeing what other movie tropes Landon can merge with the slasher genre.


1 Response to “It’s Time 2 Get ‘Freaky’ (Movie Review)”

  1. Gerard Iribe

    The hell?! Now this is one of those under the radar type of pics! To the queue!