The plot for “Freaky,” the new Friday the 13th-themed slasher meets body swap film starring Vince Vaughn and Kathryn Newton, isn’t exactly new—but it is perhaps upgrading the idea into something unique and hilarious that audiences haven’t seen before.
The film follows Newton’s character, Millie, who we see at the beginning of the film continuously cast as a social outcast in town by her peers, her teachers and even her own mother forgets about her at times (although that’s after we learn she’s been drinking the evenings away following the death of her husband, Millie’s dad). Millie does have two friends played by Celeste O’Connor and Misha Osherovich, and even an ally in the popular football player she has a crush on that she sits next to in class (Uriah Shelton), but for the most part her life is straight out of an unpopular character’s handbook, even playing the school’s mascot—the thematic calling card of a “loser.” However, all of that change once Vince Vaughn’s character enters onto the scene.
After annihilating four of her classmates, Vaughn’s serial killer character dubbed, the Blissfield Butcher, tries and does what he does best on the eve on Friday the 13th after finding Millie vulnerable and alone after the school’s homecoming game. However in the middle of his murderous attempt, something different happens and instead, the two swap bodies.
From the first scene, “Freaky” doesn’t hold back—it’s almost a little overly-gory at some points—but that matches the tone of the film. After the body-swap, the added pleasure of watching Vaughn and Newton act as each other is really what brings the laughs out.
We’ve seen the body swap happen in “The Hot Chick,” “Freaky Friday,” and even more recently with Jack Black playing a similar type of role having a teenage girl stuck inside his body in the re-boot of “Jumanji,” but this particular story has the actors perfectly suited for their roles. Newton, who has shown her acting chops as both being innocent and sweet to a little more devious in other shows such as Netflix’s “The Society,” lands the point across of being a psycho killer trapped in a high-schooler’s body. Vaughn, of course, hits it out of the park too, and the result makes his version of a high school girl enjoyable to watch, and not overly done. It’s makes the unbelievable very believable in a riotous way.
Director Christopher Landon has traveled down this path before with other hits such as “Happy Death Day 2U,” and even with the obvious horror-movie-esque tone of over-exaggerated high school cliche’s and dubious characters, it all works. What would be considered a little too corny for any other film fits like a puzzle piece with Landon’s style and also helps audiences buy into the fact that something as outlandish as a body swap through an ancient knife stolen by the Butcher in the beginning of the film could occur in such a fashion.
The film doesn’t slow down, and even utilizes the acting chops of Vaughn and Newton until the very last second. Newton’s Butcher is shown actually helping to right some wrongs that other’s have inflicted on the real Millie, however gruesome it may be. Vaughn’s Millie trapped inside his body is as subtle and fresh as you could hope. Laughing while these two are shown running around the town without any holds barred is enjoyable, and makes up for the fact that people are getting murdered in some of the most wild ways.
The film also doesn’t stop short of pulling at some very real problems. After Millie’s father died, her family including her mother and sister are left to pick up the pieces. Audiences are made aware at the beginning of the movie just how much of a strain that has put on her. Millie’s peers are also catalysts for her to re-examine her life, and throughout the duration of her journey in a serial killer’s body, she learns enough about herself and perhaps reveals more to others while the Butcher than she would have as a teenage girl. In the movie, Millie as the Butcher even says, “It’s not all bad, I even feel powerful in his body.”
“Freaky” takes the old idea of a body swap, the thrills of classic slasher films such as “Scream,” and the surprisingly hilarious antics of a serial killer unleashed in classrooms to a level that will leave audiences laughing, and laughing, and laughing. Even with all the blood and the gore that comes with the plot, it’s an escape audiences can enjoy.
“Freaky” opens Nov. 13.