Writer-director Christopher Landon and producer Jason Blum have cornered the modern horror genre, so why not expand it a little further? “Freaky,” this generation’s “Freaky Friday” and “Hot Chick” with a murderous twist, brings a lighthearted approach to slasher-comedy—with a fresh modern commentary on such implications.
While Freaky doesn’t quite have the same infectious pep as Landon’s Happy Death Day series, the film shines thanks to comedy legend Vince Vaughn and rising star Kathryn Newton’s shared charisma.
The premise is simple enough: shy seventeen-year-old Millie (Newton) swaps bodies with infamous local serial killer The Butcher (Vaughn) and has only 24 hours to switch back, plus try to curb The Butcher’s murder streak. Millie eventually finds her voice through her literal out-of-body experience and ultimately learns to stand up to high school bullies and connect with her crush, Booker (Uriah Shelton). Millie’s loyal friends Josh (Misha Osherovich) and Nyla (Celeste O’Connor) round out the memorable cast.
Freaky firmly places itself in 2020, with an early joke about the fundamental body swap (“who wouldn’t want to be a straight white man?”) carrying more weight when coupled with a later quip about how Black and gay characters are always the first to die in horror films. Actually, Josh and Nyla are revealed to be the true heroes of the movie, and Millie’s adversaries are instead the first—and only—characters to be murdered.
Yet those kills are few and far between, a rare complaint for a slasher. The chillingly cold open has more than half of the film’s total murders, and despite featuring the best match cut this year (trust us, you’ll know it when you see it), the montage is an outlier in its creativity. Want to see privileged high schoolers get their comeuppance? Just involve a private tennis court, a toilet seat, and a wine bottle. Unfortunately, the action slows after the title credits, and each murder is not as blindingly psychotic as the myth of The Butcher promises; the focus instead proves to be on Millie’s emotional growth while in The Butcher’s body.
Vaughn’s performance grounds Freaky in both inherent lovability and lighthearted humor. His turn emulating a Gen Z high schooler isn’t one-note or stereotypical; instead, Vaughn brings realistic depth to Millie, neatly bookended with Newton’s onscreen arc.
From waking up surrounded by mutilated mannequins to donning a Jason Voorhees-meets-Sam from Trick r Treat melted mask, The Butcher ironically provides Millie the shell she needs to exit from. Yes it might be Freaky, but it’s still relatable, and what more can we ask for in a modern high school slasher?
“Freaky” is in theaters Friday, November 13th.