Freaky (2020)

Friday The 13th x Freaky Friday, Blumhouse crafts another wickedly-clever youth-energized innovation of the slasher-genre: body-swap reversal of final-girl/killer dynamics w. meta-references, ’80’s feel, comical juxtaposition, genderbend intrigue, & gold Vaughn-act. 7.9/10.

Plot Synopsis: 17-year-old Millie Kessler spends her days trying to survive high school and cruel actions of the popular crowd. But when she becomes the new target of the Butcher, the town’s famed serial killer, her senior year becomes the least of her worries. When the Butcher’s mystical dagger causes them to magically switch bodies, she learns she has just 24 hours to get her identity back before she becomes the middle-aged maniac forever.

*Possible Spoilers Ahead*

Official CLC Review

The Body Swap Movie

The Genre & Storytelling Trope Finds Mixed Success On Big Screens, Failing To Realize The Most-Primal/Fascinating Angle: Gender

Photograph Courtesy Of: Blumhouse Films

The Body Swap: a narrative device wherein two characters exchange minds and find themselves inside each other’s bodies. The trope opens up big possibilities for comedy, horror, action, existential intrigue, identity exposition, character development built from diversification of experience, and one of the ultimate tests of thespian pedigree being able to play and capture multiple [often-antithetical] characters. The swap has been in fiction and magical contexts for years, but found mixed-success on the big screen: better in the past few years of the late 2010’s with projects like Shazam!, Jumanji, and Pixar’s Soul, but still only 6-7 truly good movies incorporating the concept-pitch. One of the big reasons in CLC’s diagnosis is the self-imposed muzzle/chastity-belt they’ve put on themselves failing to evoke the best-possible entertainment value and primal fascination of what we’ve always existentially-wondered: what it’s like to be the other sex/gender. The best body-swap movie because of its capitalization on the genderbend: It’s A Boy/Girl Thing (2007) and original first to paint it on-screen: Turnabout (1940) are some of the only few to ever realize its potential, but there’s finally a new one – with a blood-soaked twist. Friday The 13th x Freaky Friday, Blumhouse has managed to craft another wickedly-clever youth-energized innovation of the lost slasher-genre: a body-swap reversal of the final-girl/killer dynamic with cleverly-woven ’80’s meta-references, comical juxtaposition, sex/gender-bend fantasy, stylistic edge, & a national treasure Vince Vaughn performance.

The ’80’s-’90’s Genre Homages

A New [Blood-Soaked] Flavor For The Genre, Freaky Opens Into A Nice Killfest With Mega-References & A Vintage F13 Title Card

Photograph Courtesy Of: Blumhouse Films

From its opening scene, Freaky thunderously-declares its nostalgia and invocation of past genre-lore. A vintage title-card instantly-evokes the Camp Crystal Lake lore of Friday The 13th, even further clearly-referential by the urban legend spoken of a 6’5” presence of man by its sex-crazed teenagers around a campfire – before he [of course] shows up, with a machete and hockey-mask strikingly-mimetic of Jason’s cleverly without outright-name to avoid legality. The opening home-invasion scene culminating with parents returning home to their dead-daughter hung like an ornament is evocative of Scream, Blissfield Butcher name & animal-carcass hideout of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and backstory of his origins coming from a kill of his mother from Psycho. The escape a mental institution, infamous pin-kill to a wall, and overall-design of the sleepy americana town of Blissfied reference Halloween & Michael Myers’ Haddonfield, IL. There’s an exact recreation of the axe-shot from The Shining and ice-kill from Jason X, high-school loser narrative pre-homecoming/prom from Carrie, and [obviously] body/identity horror of The Thing, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, etc. Freaky and The Blissfield Butcher are thus a cleverly-woven love-letter homage to all of the genre’s big greats – a mixed-smoothie of lore and nostalgia any horror junkie will love/recognize on its target-demographic as it sets the stage for a new tale.

A Classic Final-Girl

A Loser Mascot-Girl Boys Don’t Notice & The Popular Crowd Eviscerates, FreakyxNewton Establish A Good Protagonist – w. Heart Too

Photograph Courtesy Of: Blumhouse Films

No slasher movie is complete without a final girl – and luckily for Freaky: its one is strongly-characterized. A timid, loserish girl who boys don’t notice and the popular crowd eviscerates on a daily basis, Millie Kessler navigates the halls like a kitten out-of-her-element. Newton’s performance of the protagonist is empathizable and nostalgically-evocative of classic ’80’s underdog movies – making us truly feel sorry for her as she gets criticized by the mean girls, spewed misogynistic comments by jocks, and resorts to the lowest of bottom-of-the-food-chain high school activities like being a beaver-mascot in hopes of enhancing her resumé for college applications on the horizon. There’s heart in her character too: a poignant emotional arc skillfully-woven underneath of tragedy and family-loss that exposés the psychology of grief and how hard it is to get your life back on track; her sister pours herself into her work, mother becomes morbidly-alcoholic, and she gives up life events like homecoming to help spend time with her mother going to see plays to make her feel less lonely about the loss of her husband.

The Setting

The Locations & Sets Of The Film Are Fantastic – From Sleepy Blissfield To Neon Mini-Golf To High-School To Home Invasion

Photograph Courtesy Of: Blumhouse Films

The settings and cinematographical canvas on which all of this is painted on is a Blumhouse speciality: youthful-energized, stylishly-constructed, vibrantly-colorized pop brilliance. No matter the other flaws of BH’s overall-magnificent collection of slasher-innovations, no one can say that the films are not beautifully-shot and translated – and Freaky is no different. The sleepy town of Blissfield feels so pure and classically-slasher; it’s a true achievement of small town americana that feels so dejà-vu and nostalgic, it’s one of the best cityscapes I wouldn’t mind strolling down the street in recent moviemaking [knew it looked familiar: shot in Alpharetta, GA, about 30 min outside of Atlanta – where I went to college at Emory University]. The rest of the set-pieces are fantastically-sculpted and ooze life/energy – especially the neon mini-golf pseudo-haunted house, Kessler home shone various shades of colorized light to spice-up the invasion-ending, creepy drug-den at the abandoned warehouse, and high-school – the perfect place for its slasher/magic-plot canonization.

A Kill Gone Wrong

The Collision Of Its Two Antithetical Presences Afterhours Of The Big Football Game Stylishly Catalyzes A New-Type Swap

Photograph Courtesy Of: Blumhouse Films

The big homecoming football game gives a perfect set-piece for the film’s major plot-catalysis [as well as its best slasher-scene]. The creepiness and afterhours of a big sporting event is a potential-rife setting not often explored in moviemaking – and it’s a nice change-of-scenery as Butcher chases Millie onto the field and stabs her with a magical artifact that catalyzes the swap. The black magic angle of the film is finely-handled – a ceremonial sacrifice dagger called La Dola dating back to Aztec/Mayan origins, which switches the bodies of the two people if the sacrifice is not complete and works well within the context of a slasher movie its dark arts call out to in the opening antique collection of the father’s mansion storage. The 24-hour swap back or be stuck forever rule and wake up overnight into the swap are admittedly-stock and genre-tropes near-universal [pun] in body-swap movies – but serve their purpose of establishing palpable stakes, clear timeline, and a nice segue into the star of the show: the swap.

The Magic & Swap

La Dola & The Black Magic Angle Of The Film Is Nicely-Scripted – Albeit Stock & Genre-Cliché, Palpable Stakes & Intrigue

Photograph Courtesy Of: Blumhouse Films

The dichotomized antagonists wake up in each other’s bodies and rooms/hideouts – and the comedy instantaneously-begins. Whereas the first act of Freaky is predominantly a slasher-establishment arc evocative of the high-’80’s-’90’s it clearly references and eulogizes – the rest of the film we would characterize as majorly a comedy.. and a magnificent one at that! VINCE VAUGHN IS A NATIONAL TREASURE; the star of the show takes the reign here and delivers one of the funniest performances I’ve seen in years as a teenage girl in a man’s body. The subtle nuances of his physicality, tonal-pitch, and language differences is so indescribably funny, it makes you truly believe there must be a girl in there – the sharpest of reversals from his fine Jason X presence beforehand into a canvas-springboard for comedy. The experience of seeing a 6’5” previous-serial killer talk in OMG text-language, use dog-filters on instagram, audible-hashtag narrate, seek-out triple berry gushers, hum Justin Bieber in the shower, rave about Pitch Perfect 2, and get boy-crazy when a crush comes to sit next to him is one of the most brilliant and damn funny I’ve ever witnessed – alone worth the price-of-admission [multiple times].

The Brilliance Of Vince Vaughn

Alone Worth The Price-Of-Admission, Vaughn Gives Delivers Of The Funniest Performances Ever: Teenage Girl x Man

Photograph Courtesy Of: Blumhouse Films

There is cogent exposition on masculinity through her experience as well – how people are on-edge just because of your size/presence even when you don’t have malicious intentions, the strength expected of us she feels in the [hilariously-twisted] flirtation with her own mom who uses his reassurance as a therapist’s springboard used for character development, the bizarrity of having a dong [x-rated comedy but dang funny], and how awful it is to be a big ugly man instead of a cute young girl. That is certainly clear as the film gets to its biggest potential and best part: the fantasy/imagination of ~every guy on earth [if we’re being honest] of what it would be like to experience being in a woman’s body. From the opening wake-up of our serial killer in the boy-band poster and cute tomogachi-laden pink room of his supposed-victim, the film breathes sex-appeal from the moment he feels the boobs now on his chest and admires his striking new reflection in the mirror. The sex/gender-bend fantasy goes even farther in the breathtaking sequence of when ‘Millie’ walks into school with a new pep in ‘her’ step.

A Killer New Look

The Sex-Appeal & X-Rated Gags Of A Man w. A Cute Blonde’s Body Is Every Guy’s Fantasy – Mixedly-Acted By Newton Overlaying The Edge/Grimdark w. Subtlety Of A Chainsaw

Photograph Courtesy Of: Blumhouse Films

The slow-motion, red-lipped and leathered, stilettoed, cinematographical curve-capturing scene of the killer new look of Millie 2.0 walking into high school is one of the best and most hyper-stylized in slasher movies – perhaps, ever. The soundtrack of The Chordettes’ airy dreamlike fantasy Que Séra reverberates the reverie and daydream of guys watching and wishing they could be in her shoes – sharply-juxtaposed by screamo-heavy metal/rap with hyphy, dark edge to thematically-resonate the swap and persona deep-down beyond the glamorized appearance. The comedy also follows in hard-R sex type of all the guys and popular crowd finally noticing her – one guy even squirting a tube of toothpaste upon appearance of the new sexy-Kessler rocking confidence [hilariously physicality-symbolic of busting a.. you know what]. After those two fantastic sequences hyper-stylizing the fantasy promise of what guys were hoping for and promising more as the film goes on for the second-half, though, it ~fails to pack any more exposition on it – mixedly-acted and [somehow, inexcusably] not-scary-enough.

Not Scary Enough

CLC’s Major Problem With Freaky: It ~Fails To Capitalize On Easy Potential Of Premise; A Wolf In Sheep’s [Body] Okay Being Sheep

Photograph Courtesy Of: Blumhouse Films

Newton’s performance as the serial-killer in a girl’s body is mixed-to-bad. Credit where it’s due: she was good at establishing the final girl in the pre-swap arc she clearly looked more at-home in, but her interpretation of the new persona post-swap is pretty-bad. Overlaying the edge/grim-dark with the subtlety of a chainsaw, it’s almost impossible to NOT know it’s really a serial-killer in her body. I mean, she literally holds a knife creepily staring at her own sister – and then tries to stab her, seconds into the swap.. The dialogue she’s given only makes it 10x worse: inexorably-cringeworthy lines like the sandpaper and monkey ones – while also literally telling someone she ‘can’t wait to kill them’. For the ‘most effective serial killer in town history’ terrorizing generations of kids, he doesn’t realize to capitalize on the easiest possible potential of the new body: a wolf in sheep’s clothing literally able to kill anyone and no one would think to interrogate because of his new petite figure and gender-privilege of non-suspection – as well as being far more beautiful, young again gettting 20-30 years back, and able to get in close with the popular crowd for a better life or easy victims regardless.

The Cringeworthy Dialogue-Writing

Newton’s A Good FG Pre-Swap, But Weirdly Misses On Its Easier Post-Swap: Mid Acting, Cringeworthy Dialogue, & A [Dumb] Slasher

Photograph Courtesy Of: Blumhouse Films

Speaking of wolves in sheep’s clothing, Freaky is [apparently] content with being sheep instead of a wolf: the film is not nearly-scary enough. There are 15-20+ minute sequences without a single kill in a slasher movie – and the kills it does give or pretty-mediocre/middling besides the cryogenics Jason X-reference and football-game. The film also hedges its bets by making all of the victims of its slashing hatable [the IG mean-girl, misogynistic teacher, and sexually-assaultive/hate-speech spewing jocks], making it less scary because you’re left almost hoping they’re next victims in the audience instead of the concept of the final girl being innocent and rootable making us care and hope she makes it out alive. The constant references and recreations of horror/slasher lore [while great and nostalgic for genre-junkies] almost-limit and make Freaky forget to establish its own – mixedly-capitalizing on the easy potential of its brilliant pitch with these glaring flaws that do underwhelm/disappoint by how once-in-a-lifetime its slasher-swap concept is [I wish it was more], but isn’t enough to completely-ruin enjoyment of.

Conclusion

Freaky Friday x Friday The 13th

Bringing Imagination & Fun Back To A Lost-Genre In Need, BH Crafts Another Wickedly-Clever Youth-Energized Slasher: A Body-Swap Of Killer/Final-Girl w. Epic Comedy

Photograph Courtesy Of: Blumhouse Films

Overall, Freaky is another win for Blumhouse: the pre-eminent king studio of the genre-of-scares by imagination, innovation, and inspiration brought to a lost-genre. The film cleverly-subverts every preconceived notion/cliché of the genre through its body-swap reversal of the final-girl/killer dynamic: one of the best concept-pitches in years, opening up huge doors for both horror and comedy while capitalizing on the biggest potential and entertainment-value in body-swap movies being the universal existential curiosity of what it’s like to be the opposite sex/gender. The comedy it achieves brilliantly through the sharpness of juxtaposition of its two antithetical presences – a kitten-like, shy, quiet high-school girl and serial-killer madman as they criss-cross bodies brought to life by contrastive performances. Vince Vaughn is a national treasure we need to protect at all costs: delivering one of the funniest performances in ages when he goes full instagram-hashtag, pitch perfect 2, text-language, boy-crazy teenage girl [nailed even down to the physicality of his gingerly-walking and softening of vocal mix; he’s also a chilling serial-killer too]. Newton is okay – establishing a fine classical final-girl navigating the cruel world of being a loserish nobody in high-school she plays serviceably.. but laying on the edge WAY too thickly post-swap – a caricature it’s hard to take seriously and not laugh at with cringeworthy profane [not-even-funny] dialogue and the subtlety of a baboon – here, even more inexplicable – since any halfway-effective serial-killer would realize it’s the perfect sheep’s clothing for a wolf to blend/hide within for maximum carnage/victims. The film isn’t scary enough – a shocking thing to say by the brilliance of the concept as just-explained invoking provocative identity-horror possibilities being lured to violence/death by a person you trust and possibly-losing your body and friends, but one that has like 3-4 [~mediocre, except for the beginning & end] slasher scenes, hedges its bets by making all of its few victims hatable, and is too focused on referencing nostalgic kills/lore from ’70’s-’90’s genre-legends like The Shining, Halloween, The Thing, Scream, Carrie, and Friday The 13th [though its Easter Eggs/homages are great] to the extent it somewhat forgets to create its own. Still, while there are plenty of sizable flaws: it’s difficult to really-dislike Freaky by the pure innovative ambition of its inarguably-brilliant concept, be fascinated by its central antithesization-swap and genderbend, or hate the indescribably-hilarious performance of a teenage-girl Vince Vaughn – whose efforts single-handedly make the film a blast must-see worth the price of admission. Friday The 13th x Freaky Friday, Blumhouse has managed to craft another wickedly-clever youth-energized innovation of the lost slasher-genre: a body-swap reversal of the final-girl/killer dynamic with cleverly-woven ’80’s meta-references, comical juxtaposition, sex/gender-bend fantasy, stylistic edge, & a national treasure Vince Vaughn performance.

Official CLC Score: 7.9/10