I’ll be honest, I was skeptical in the first ten minutes of Blumhouse’s newest horror/comedy Freaky - partly because I couldn’t take Vince Vaughn seriously as a serial killer. The film follows teenage girl Mille Kessler, played by Kathryn Newton (of Big Little Lies and The Society) and her two best friends as she battles high school “mean girls” and shyly observes her football player crush. But, when she’s stabbed in the chest by Vince Vaughn's “Blissfield Butcher,'' magical powers summoned from the Aztec weapon used cause them to wake up in each other’s bodies the next day. As I said, I wasn’t so sure about the casting of the film in the first 10 minutes, but as soon as the body swap occurred I knew Vaughn and Newton were perfect for their roles. With exaggerated movements and dialogue, Vaughn perfectly played a shy teenage girl trapped inside the body of a 6’4” middle-aged man. On the flip side, Newton’s devilish grins and confidence better equipped her for the serial killer role, which she transitioned to easily while slipping on a red leather jacket.
The film is a perfect intersection of genres: the comedy and body-swap plot of Freaky Friday mixed with the slasher tropes and self-awareness of Scream (quotes like “I’m black, you’re gay, we’re SO dead” over-exaggerate this critique of the horror genre). I found myself hysterically laughing one moment, and being shocked by the absurdly gruesome murder scenes the next (hence the R-rating). When Millie and the killer swap bodies, Millie is instantly horrified and struggles to even walk in the street without everyone recognizing her as the Blissfield Butcher. The Butcher, on the other hand, wakes up happily in Millie’s body, quickly realizing that this gives him a perfect opportunity to go after high school students without suspicion. Once she finally (and hysterically) convinces her best friends that it really is Millie trapped inside the Butcher’s body, they all go on a mission to find the real Butcher (in Millie’s body) before the switch is permanent in 24 hours. Hilarious interactions with both her mom and her police-officer sister put Millie in suspenseful situations while she is trapped as the Butcher. Looking like a man even gives Millie the confidence to talk to her crush, which turns into a very awkward situation when the scene depicts Vince Vaughn and a teenage boy about to make out. Millie even expresses the fact that she feels stronger and “invincible” in this new body, contrasting the weakness and vulnerability that the Butcher comes across while in her body (even facing a near gang-rape scenario). This bit of feminist analysis is short-lived but provides another level of depth to the body-switch scenario.
Despite my initial hesitation, I thoroughly enjoyed Freaky. The classic high-school slasher trope felt a little played out, but the unique combination of various genres and the superb casting of Vince Vaughn and Kathryn Newton made the Blumhouse film shine. If you’re looking for a laugh and don’t mind some gore and violence, Freaky might be the film for you.