The body swap formula is far from new. They’ve been done tirelessly but what keeps us coming back to them is the same reason that any tired formula of cinema remains entertaining, it’s what the filmmakers can do with the formula to fit a particular genre. The core of these films will rarely change, they’re fun, light hearted and whimsical, but it’s all a question of the quality of the writing that makes it feel refreshing. In the case of Freaky, it’s taking the body-swap formula and applying it to the comedy/horror genre, and it surprisingly works very well.
I’ll be honest, the trailers don’t exactly help the film because you do get the impression of the film recycling old concepts, but the filmmakers of Freaky have managed to surprise me with a film that is both entertaining to watch and can deliver on the elements that horror fanatics crave for. Well, when I say horror fanatics, I do mean fans of slasher films, because make no mistake, Freaky is a slasher.
With that labelling comes with a lot of things to remember. The first of which is while being entertaining, you do need a stomach for gory violence. A lot of slasher appetites are going to be fulfilled by this film because the kills in Freaky are a mix of ingenuity and over the top actions. If you put your film into the slasher category it allows you to become very creative with how you kill off your characters by making use of items in the locations. Freaky does well with using its environments, with things like wine bottles, a table saw, and a cryotherapy tank all involved in the deaths of some.
Speaking of characters, many of them you will encounter in Freaky are pretty cliched, but in fairness, most slashers are built on characters with specific tropes so a bit of leeway is required. Although this film’s killer, The Blissfield Butcher (Vince Vaughn) doesn’t exactly earn a place at the table of other iconic slasher killers, Vince Vaughn is the limelight stealer in this film. This is one of his funniest performances and a much welcome return to the comedy film scene after a couple of serious roles. Where he does best is when his character is inhabited by our lead girl Millie (Kathryn Newton). It a similar role to that of Jack Black in the first Jumanji film, the same kind of energy is felt here, but I think where Vaughn has the edge is that he doesn’t overplay being a teenage girl. You don’t look at his performance and think “I’m watching Vince Vaughn pretending to be a teenage girl”.
I think you do have to be acquainted with the slasher genre to enjoy Freaky, you have to know that it is being intentionally cheesy otherwise you may think of said cheesiness negatively. With that being said, the film doesn’t exactly follow the same horror comedy traditions as many others do. Poking fun of its own genre has become a necessity in many horror comedies and/or slashers, and while there are several little nods to the genre, for instance The Butcher’s killer appearance being similar to Jason from the Friday the 13th films, but I got the impression that the story the film tells has a much bigger priority over meta-humour.
With intentional cheesiness comes with a big responsibility of not overdoing it in many areas, Freaky as a whole manages all these little elements well, but there are areas in which the film where I felt could have been better handled. The dialogue for instance isn’t too bad, but some conversations between characters that are meant to change them sometimes run off on themselves. One of these instances is when Millie, in The Butcher’s body, is having an anonymous heart to heart with her alcoholic mother Coral (Katie Finneran) who is still trying to cope with the death of her husband. The scene begins very sweetly and you can see the change happening to the two (mainly the mother), but at some point the change has nowhere else to go and the film doesn’t recognise this, so the scene ends up becoming one long conversation with waffling dialogue that doesn’t lead anywhere.
I also have an issue with The Butcher inhabiting Millie’s body. This is by no means the fault of Katheryn Newton but while The Butcher is in Millie’s body, the scenes become rather repetitive with luring students away and killing them. The only upside to this is that The Butcher does kill everyone who have bullied Millie in the past, but things only get interesting when The Butcher actually starts to talk but for the most part, all that’s required of Katheryn Newton in this role is to just stare intensely.
Where Freaky lacks in some areas, it more than makes up for entertainment value. I started this year by thinking that the film audiences would see would be a sort of continuation from last year when there was nothing that could be really done about it, but 2021 has given us quite a few surprise hits, Freaky is now the newest member of that group. Of course it’s not without its flaws, but seeing Vince Vaughn finally nailing a good comedy performance after so long as well as the satisfactory slasher elements is immensely satisfies any doubts had about Freaky.
Final Result: 7/10 – Good
Have you seen Freaky? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: Black Widow