Freaky Friday gets a slasher film twist with director Christopher Landon’s Freaky arriving on Friday the 13th. Landon doesn’t reinvent the wheel but instead embraces and expands on the body-swapping premise, switching out Freaky Friday’s sweet family-friendly setting for the twisted world of a serial killer, sprinkled with a dash of Mean Girls.
Kathryn Newton (Big Little Lies) stars as introverted high school student Millie Kessler. Millie’s definitely not living her best life, suffering through her time at Blissfield High School as the school’s mascot (a beaver) and frequent target of obnoxious bullies who make Mean Girls’ “Regina” look positively angelic. Oh, and she’s also subjected to daily putdowns by the world’s rudest shop teacher (played by Ferris Bueller’s Alan Ruck). High school’s rough, but Millie doesn’t realize how bad it can get until she’s sucked into the Blissfield Butcher’s orbit.
The Butcher (Vince Vaughn) steals a magical dagger while running up his body count and unwittingly activates its mystical qualities while attempting to murder poor Millie. The morning after the attack, Millie wakes to find she’s now inhabiting the body of a middle-aged psychopath. The Butcher discovers he’s suddenly a teenage girl surrounded by hundreds of possible victims who’ll be sitting ducks at that night’s Homecoming dance.
The dagger’s body-swapping powers have a special 24-hour do-over time frame, and Millie – who’s walking around in the body of a man who’s the subject of a city-wide manhunt – has to fix things or else she’s permanently stuck. Fortunately, Millie’s got two incredible BFFs (Celeste O’Connor and Misha Osherovich) who actually believe her crazy story and jump in with both feet to help. Millie’s secret crush, Booker (Uriah Shelton), also rises to the occasion and proves to be super sweet and understanding while Millie’s stuck in the Butcher’s body.
Kathryn Newton and Vince Vaughn pull off the switcheroo, with Vaughn hilarious as a teen girl and Newton doing a terrific job as a serial killer hiding out in a girl’s body. Sure, there’s the requisite scene of the Butcher touching Millie’s breasts after discovering he’s occupying her body. But there’s also fun unexpected bits after the swap where Vaughn as Millie figures out she’s actually extraordinarily strong and a lot taller than she’s used to being.
Newton’s transformation into a male serial killer trapped in Millie’s body is more nuanced and controlled, projecting a more serious, calculating attitude while cloaked in a red leather jacket and rocking a tight ponytail.
Writer/director Christopher Landon and co-writer Michael Kennedy are able to pay tribute to so many popular horror and coming-of-age films that it’s pretty astounding there’s a coherent storyline running through Freaky. All the head nodding at classic slasher and teen films should be enough to induce whiplash. It doesn’t – but it does make you want to watch a second time just to catch those references you missed during the first viewing.
There’s plenty of grisly, shocking, and innovative death scenes – some involving characters who really had it coming – to keep those into blood and guts entertained. Landon’s Freaky is a fun, fast-paced horror comedy that hits all the right marks while mowing through tropes and honoring the best of the slasher genre.
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content, language throughout, and strong bloody horror violence
Running Time: 1 hour 41 minutes
Release Date: November 13, 2020
Studio: Universal Pictures presents a Blumhouse Production