You ever watch Freaky Friday as a kid and think, “This could use some blood and viscera?” Yeah, me either, but I’m overjoyed that Christopher Landon did.
Freaky is set in Blissfield, a town in oh…let’s just guess Ohio. A series of absolutely brutal deaths have been attributed to what the townsfolk are calling “The Blissfield Butcher” (Vince Vaughn), a concept no one takes very seriously. Young friends Millie (Kathryn Newton), Josh (Mischa Osherovich), and Nyla (Radhesh Aria) are more concerned with their daily high school lives. Millie is helping her mom (Katie Finneran) and sister (Dana Drori) through their troubled home life in the wake of her father’s death. When left alone after a homecoming football game she encounters the Butcher, who cuts her with this magic Aztec knife he found that causes them to switch bodies. After they wake up the next morning, the Butcher begins killing as Millie while the poor girl discovers peeing with a penis and how hard it is going to be to get her body back.
This movie is a riot, but that should come as no surprise when it was brought forth from the brain of Christopher Landon. I was a big fan of Happy Death Day and it’s sequel, Happy Death Day 2U, so I went into this expecting something just as good. What I got were gloriously gory kills and a sweet story of awkward teens navigating their hormones. Landon’s never shied away from getting gross, shredding Jessica Roth to pieces in all sorts of ways in other films, but here he’s really off the leash. Tennis rackets, ancient daggers, all of it is up for use and it’s so satisfying to watch.
Perhaps the best things, though, are the performances of Kathryn Newton and Vince Vaughn. Newton was impressive a couple of years back in Detective Pikachu, but I honestly hadn’t seen anything else she had starred in and was glad to see her as an awkward, self-conscious kid just worried about all the drama in her life. Her growing confidence is charming (and, if I’m being honest, reminds me a lot of Rothe’s character in other Landon-written films) and the opportunity to play both this and a cartoonishly evil male serial killer had to have presented challenges. Vaughn, on the other hand, is going as big as he can and is adorable as a young woman. It’s a brave and honest performance, often requiring him to pretend that he’s never had male genitalia, but it’s earnest and the most fun I’ve seen him have since 2007’s Fred Claus. It’s just nice to have him back.
Landon, an openly gay man, has really decided to play with gender fluidity here. Sure, there’s a gay character, but the real things of note involve the body swap and how characters interact with each other. Vaughn has to play a high school student with a crush on a young man and none of it feels exploitative or for show. Instead it’s just…cute. I don’t know, you’ll have to watch it and see, but many moments of this create situations that would be nice when considering not only gender roles but gender identity.
This isn’t near the most incredible film from last year, but it’s one of the most fun and I think it’d be widely discussed had it been given a wider release platform (I miss movie theatres so much it makes my heart hurt). It’s available to rent/buy on all normal platforms, and I hope you take the time to give it a look. Freaky is charming, sweet, and absolutely brutal.