The premise of the new horror movie Freaky is rife with potential. A take-off of Disney’s Freaky Friday, with added unspoken allusion to the classic horror series Friday the 13th, it features a serial killer named the Blissfield Butcher (Vince Vaughn) magically swapping bodies with high schooler Millie (Kathryn Newton) via an ancient cursed knife.
Of course, it’s what you do with the fun premise that matters, and this film squanders nearly every opportunity to be memorable. Things start off promising, at least for fans of horror, as the opening sequence of the film has the Butcher dispatch an unfortunate group of teenagers using a variety of creative means, including a wine bottle, tennis racquet, and antique spear.
Things start to go downhill with the introduction to Millie, which is full of so many clichés that it’s hard to know where to start. Millie, who is white, has two best friends, one of whom is Black and the other gay (Celeste O'Connor and Misha Osherovich). Despite being objectively attractive, she is viewed as an outcast by a group of bully girls, and also acts as the school mascot, the better to cover up her “ugly” face.
Once the body switch happens via an attempted stabbing of Millie by the Butcher, the movie goes awry in innumerable ways. It’s obvious writer/director Christopher Landon is going for a fun horror movie vibe, but he lands on dumb instead of entertaining. He has plenty of relevant experience, writing much of the Paranormal Activity series and being involved with both Happy Death Day films, but whatever he learned with those experiences doesn’t show up here.
Landon and co-writer Michael Kennedy try to shoehorn in confrontations by Millie as the Butcher with people who were mean to her previously, something that doesn’t make much sense. Why would the Butcher specifically go after Millie’s enemies when he has no knowledge of them? It makes for a nice comeuppance for those rotten characters, but the revenge is hollow.
Landon also tries for some sincerity by playing up the death of Millie’s dad and her mom’s subsequent alcoholism, but heartfelt emotions feel radically out-of-place with the rest of the film. Similarly, Millie’s relationship with her two best friends never makes an impact on the film, nor does a budding relationship with football star Booker (Uriah Shelton).
In fact, the only part of the film that works in the slightest are the performances by Vaughn and Newton, no surprise since they are the stars. While the effectiveness of them affecting each other’s demeanors is dubious, at least each of them commits to the idea fully, going for the gusto at every turn. Each gives their respective dual roles more effort than they deserved.
Freaky is timed fortuitously to come out on Friday the 13th of November, but only those hard-up for at-home entertainment should bother venturing out to theaters to see it. Risking your health to see this massively unsuccessful film is way scarier than anything it has to offer.
Freaky will open in theaters on November 13.