Written by: Michael Kennedy & Christopher Landon
Starring: Vince Vaughn, Kathryn Newton, Katie Finneran, Celeste O’Connor, Misha Osherovich
Body swap films have served as vehicles to show someone what it’s like to be in another’s shoes. Typically tied with some lesson attached, these stories typically have plenty of heart. The same cannot be said for Freaky in the hilarious way it uses this storytelling device as no lesson exists but all of the thrills of a slasher do in such an entertaining movie. Comprised of bundles of fun, this feature provides pretty much everything you expect.
Unpopular in school, Millie (Kathryn Newton) struggles to get the attention of boys. While waiting for a ride home after a football game, she gets killed by the local serial killer, the Blissfield Butcher (Vince Vaughn) with a special knife. Instead of dying, she wakes up in the body of the Butcher and realizes the opposite has happened with her body. With limited time, she needs to switch everything back before it’s too late.
Such a knockout fun idea, Freaky takes a slasher premise and makes it incredibly funny because of its body swap mechanism. This allows for a meek teenage girl to be in the body of a massive serial killer and then the inverse occurring of this murderer inhabiting the body of a smaller girl. The idea sounds fascinating and the execution works well enough even with several aspects of the film not really holding up to scrutiny. With several brutal kills, including one in shop class, this film knows that genre it wants to operate within and really runs with it.
Watching this feature provides a very important reminder: Vince Vaughn is a massive human being and nothing makes it clearer than when Millie inhabits his body and stands next to her friends. Standing at 6’ 5”, the man is a giant compared to everyone else in the feature, not just in height but in mass. This only makes the performance given by Vaughn that much funnier, as he goes all out in this portrayal and knocks it out of the park. Having a man this massive give such a petit and awkward performance works to such a hilarious degree from the small mannerisms to the pouty faces he puts on. Whatever coaching Vaughn received in this portrayal certainly made an impact because the execution stands out as the defining feature of the film.
Similarly, Kathryn Newton does well to transition from the meek teenage girl to this ruthless killer as her body gets taken over by the Butcher. The change in demeanor really shows a fun level of range, even if I doubt the Butcher would have the fashion sense to go with a red leather jacket and tight pants in order to give this more ruthless look to Millie’s body. From awkward to mercilessly killing people, this film does provide each of them opportunities to use these bodies to their advantage. By showing the Butcher knows how to utilize this body to attract kills in a different way, this narrative shows this serial killer can find many ways to kill people, even if he no longer has the same strength as his original body.
Working as a slasher film, this feature is incredibly self-aware of the tropes embedded within the feature. You have characters like Nyla (Celeste O’Connor) and Josh (Misha Osherovich) who know their defining characteristics and how it usually fares in these types of films. Certainly not the first time a slasher has been self-aware, but the directness to which this film absolutely just lays it out can get a bit too cute at times. It works during certain moments but after a while, the jokes begin to get stale, which never fares well for a story constantly trying to go meta with its humor. Then you have the adults, who are just unnecessarily aggressive in this feature, especially Millie’s woodshop teacher, Mr. Bernardi (Alan Ruck). I mean, the buyer teaches woodshop, the man needs to calm down with how he treats students when letting them use such sharp objects. He becomes one of the more satisfying deaths to watch.
Carrying such a fun premise and executed well enough, Freaky delivers just enough comedy and thrilling kills to do justice to the performances at play. Both Vince Vaughn and Kathryn Newton do well in the dual roles they play and work as strong adversaries throughout. While it gets too cute with itself at times, the self-aware nature nets good and adds more fun to a story racing against the clock.