By Lindsay Traves | Film | December 4, 2020 |
By Lindsay Traves | Film | December 4, 2020 |
There was certainly no reason to force the spooky season to halt on October 31, especially as streaming services pay more and more attention to horror flicks, and “Halloween at Home” left us with creative ways to remotely share spooky movies with each other. Exploiting the Friday the 13th in the middle of this November is Freaky, Christopher Landon’s follow up to Happy Death Day, which promises another self-aware twist on the slasher.
Freaky is a mashing together of two familiar films, Freaky Friday and Friday the 13th (Part III, if we’re going to be technical about it). Millie is a quiet everywoman who glides through her suburban life wearing a dress we’d expect to see on A Nightmare on Elm Street’s Alice Johnson. She’s a lightning rod for bullies and lacks the confidence to pursue her crush. She lost her father about a year ago. Her mother has turned to chardonnay to heal her wounds, and her police officer sister is too busy to manage any of it. If this sounds like a collection of horror tropes and cliches that make Millie a mashup of Nancy Thompson, Sidney Prescott, and Tatum Riley (your favourite Final Girls), it’s because it is.
Freaky lives and dies by these homages, which isn’t always a good thing. After a seeming resurgence of a masked killer believed to only be a legend, Millie is attacked and stabbed. But she’s stabbed by the Blissfield Butcher’s newly acquired Kandarian Dagger-like weapon that forces the killer and his victim to switch bodies. Now, trapped inside the 6’5” frame of a wanted murderer, Millie has to gain the trust of her friends and try to get her body back.
Though it exercises the restraint to avoid going full-meta, Freaky is nothing if not self-aware. Millie’s dialogue is plucked right out of legendary slashers, and every moment is just a hair south of being an identical shot from one of them. It’s a fun easter egg hunt for horror fans who like breaking down killers’ masks and character archetypes. It never curses us with the post-Scream Randy Meeks character, which is a gift from co-writers, Christopher Landon and Michael Kennedy.
Unfortunately, the archetypes and homages never rise above being anything more than that. Yeah, the movie knows Millie talks like Laurie Strode, but it never pushes past homage and into comment. Secondary characters range from ‘incompetent cop’ to ‘wine mom.’ It leaves the entire ordeal feeling hollow. Scenes are interspliced from the two aforementioned features on which Freaky is based, but they fit together like lamb and tuna fish. This leaves a lot of the deeper moments from both films in the dust, resulting in a plot shallower than that of The Hot Chick.
With cops on the hunt for the Blissfield Butcher, Millie doesn’t get the opportunity to do much in his body but hide. Trading places with a psycho killer doesn’t really lend to the body-swap formula of each character discovering something about the other and themselves. However, by forcing Millie to wear a mask, we’re robbed of the moments of self-discovery that comes with wearing a towering dude’s skinsuit. It’s mostly reduced to a few flaccid gags.
Landon, coming off of the similar supernatural twist on the slashers, Happy Death Day and Happy Death Day 2 U, manages to show he isn’t a one-trick-pony. This film could have been a carbon copy of his previous work. Yet aside from some rockin’ slow-mo bouncing blonde ponytail shots, he brings a lot of new things to the table. It remains brightly lit and colorful but comes with new angles and cool confetti tricks that go well alongside his familiar late-night kill sequences.
Vince Vaughn carries a lot of the film on his broad shoulders, the movie exploiting his Voorhees-like stature and his comedic sensibilities and charisma. He acts the hell out of being a teenage girl, which almost distracts from the one-dimensional friends and the love interest with big “grab her by the brain” energy. Not to be outdone, Kathryn Newton is stellar as the killer. She doesn’t get a ton to do in the teenage girl’s sleeve, but she adopts a hilarious posture and delivers Victor Crowley-like lines through red-painted lips.
Though lacking satiating depth, it’s palpable that the co-writers spilled themselves into their work. Kennedy has been vocal that he explored his grief for a lost parent through this film, which does add valuable context to some moments with Millie and her mother. Both LGBTQ+ creators, Landon and Kennedy peppered in elements of queerness, exploring gender identity and sexuality. It’s commendable that it presents what could have been an awkward as hell moment of Vince Vaughn smooching a highschool boy in a way that never asks you to laugh at two men kissing.
Freaky has many of the elements of horror comedies with staying power like The Guest and The Final Girls from references to beloved franchises to cat-and-mouse games during party scenes. However, the one-dimensional characters, low stakes, and easy twists make it feel tedious. For a super fun popcorn flick, Freaky does exactly what it sets out to do and delivers exactly what it promises. It’s a good-spirited horror-comedy that throws two of your favourite movies into a blender and pours out a tall glass of Vince Vaughn giggling about Snapchat filters.
Freaky hits theaters on November 13.
Epidemiologists do not think it’s safe yet to go to theaters even with social distancing and safety measures in place. This review of a theatrical release is not an endorsement or suggestion otherwise. This film was reviewed via a screening link.
Lindsay Traves is a Toronto-based writer. After submitting her Bachelor’s thesis, “The Metaphysics of Schwarzenegger Movies,” she decided to focus on writing about her passions; sci-fi, horror, sports, and comic books. You can find her writing on Daily Dead, CGMagazine, What to Watch, StarTrek.com, and Bloody Disgusting and can follow her work on Twitter @smashtraves.
Header Image Source: Universal Pictures