Freaky (2020)
Freaky (2020)

Genre: Horror Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 42 min.

Release Date: November 13th, 2020 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Christopher Landon Actors: Kathryn Newton, Vince Vaughn, Katie Finneran, Dana Drori, Uriah Shelton, Misha Osherovich, Celeste O’Connor, Melissa Collazo

 


 

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n Wednesday the 11th, a group of teenagers gather in front of a fire outside an enormous mansion, trading stories about the Blissfield Butcher (Vince Vaughn) – an urban legend of a serial killer, whose murder spree began in 1977, and whose slaughtering bouts always center around Homecoming. As the youths poke around Ginny’s (Kelly Lamor Wilson) father’s estate, brimming with ancient art, the actual Butcher turns up, intent on dispatching them one by one – in exhaustively gruesome (or perhaps brutally creative) manners. And before he disappears into the night, he purloins a magical Aztec knife artifact (dubbed La Dola) with a glowing jewel embedded in the skull-shaped handle.

The following day (Thursday the 12th) finds highschooler Millie Kessler (Kathryn Newton) dealing with her gloomy mom Coral (Katie Finneran) and her police officer sister Charlene (Dana Drori) – each member still coping with a vital familial loss. Plus, she has uncomfortable confrontations with bully Ryler (Melissa Collazo); the boy she likes, jock Booker Strode (Uriah Shelton); and abrasive shop teacher Mr. Bernardi (Alan Ruck). And that’s all before she’s left at the campus late at night, wearing her mascot costume, alone on a bench as the stadium lights are turned off – becoming the perfect victim in the perfect setting for a vicious attack by the Blissfield Butcher. But that’s not all; just as she’s about to be stabbed to death by the Butcher’s newly acquired knife, clouds roll past the moon, the heavens part, and some inexplicable witchcraft switches their consciences.

This isn’t the first derivation of “Freaky Friday,” and it surely won’t be the last, but at least it’s a fresh twist (on the heels of director Christopher Landon’s previous reimagining of a classic comedy plot fused with the horror genre – “Happy Death Day”). Merging the standard body-swap formula with a gory slasher has its charms, particularly as Vaughn and Newton get to play exceptionally offbeat personas. Curiously, Vaughn almost seems like himself, crying and sputtering in a panicky fashion, cracking goofy observations out loud, and donning effeminate mannerisms for slapsticky routines. Clearly, the two leads are having a blast in their role reversals (one can only imagine how hilarious the outtakes must be).

“Maybe we let her be weird for a day.” Unfortunately, much of the writing sounds like adults failing miserably to script teens; the lack of authenticity is jarring, even in the realm of a spoof. Once the switch occurs, however, the considerable insincerities no longer stand out; everything is devoid of realism – to the point that it doesn’t matter that the Butcher somehow knows how to apply makeup, or manages to use his petite, blonde disguise as a clever distraction, despite being so insane that he can barely prevent himself from murdering everyone who crosses his path. Even the adults tend to have conversations that are exceptionally unreal, though they obviously contribute to the humor (the timing and coincidences of numerous actions are just as nonsensical). Yet when no one takes their situations seriously, it majorly undermines the suspense of life-or-death scenarios, themselves approached with a certain bloodthirsty gravity.

Though the premise is amusing – as well as the farcical adventures of running from the police, thwarting attacks, having mushy heart-to-hearts while in the wrong bodies, and attempting to convince fellow students of the truth (including best pals Joshua Detmer [Misha Osherovich] and Nyla Chones [Celeste O’Connor]) – once the primary gimmick is revealed, the plot immediately runs out of ideas. There’s nothing terribly original about the stalking, the adolescent shenanigans (including an unconvincing love story), the stereotypical characters, and the sloppy flashbacks and last-minute twists. Yet the more juvenile “Freddy vs. Jason” vibe is moderately engaging and the violence is effectively over-the-top, which occasionally compensate for the formulaic horror tropes and the general absence of innovation surrounding the high school sketches.

– Mike Massie

  • 6/10