Nostalgia has been a big moneymaker for Hollywood in recent decades, pillaging the successes of the past for reboot and repurposing. Although never explicitly said, it is quite clear that Freaky is a mash-up of two unrelated film classics from the past: Freaky Friday and Friday the 13th. Beyond the shared word in the title of each film, there is nothing connecting a family body-swap to a bloody slasher, and it often feels as though the filmmakers stopped trying to do anything else clever after coming up with the unique premise. What we get is a perfunctory horror comedy with a lazy script and none of the references to the two films which inspired it that might have given the entire outing more nuance. At the very least, it would have been nice to see some stylistic references, but this is filmed in the blandest way possible.
Beginning with an opening sequence that is intentionally crass, there is an odd mix of transparent (and almost trendy) politics and extreme violence, neither really working in harmony with one another. Worse yet, from the beginning the violence doesn’t seem to be going for scares as much as shock value. After our introduction to the violence worthy of the R-rating, carried out by a savage serial killer known as The Butcher (Vince Vaughn), we transition into the body swap aspect of the storyline. When meek high schooler Millie (Kathryn Newton) has an encounter with The Butcher on a Friday the 13th, somehow they switch bodies. Millie wakes in the body of the middle-aged serial killer, and The Butcher wakes in the body of a teenage girl, ready to take advantage of the new opportunities it presents.
While there are a few scenes in which The Butcher struggles to carry out violence in his usual manner, due to the diminished size of Millie’s body, but the film is much more concerned with the softer storyline of Millie learning to stand up for herself while inhabiting a much more intimidating frame. It also gives her the opportunity to be bold with a guy she likes, leading to one of the stranger first-kiss scenes I have ever seen onscreen. While the character arc of Millie is predictable and rote for any family film, it drags down the tone of a horror film, especially because it never feels sincere. Conversations like one she has when coincidentally running into her mother (while still in the form of The Butcher) while hiding out in a department store dressing room feel so incredibly contrived that it is insulting.
At the same time that the Freaky Friday storyline in the film feels forced and cheesy, the violence of the Friday the 13th storyline goes back to the 1980s slasher mentality, which seemed more interested in the creativity of the kills and special effects to achieve them than any semblance of suspense or scares. Each of the deaths use gore for shock value, but that is about all the value that these sequences add to the film.
Director Christopher Landon has made a name for himself by making horror comedies that are best described by referencing classic comedies of the past. Happy Death Day was described as a horror Groundhog’s Day, and Freaky similar in approach, but I’m afraid he’s beginning to rely too much on a good concept, and not nearly enough on the execution. Everything about this film feels perfunctory. The scares are predictable, and the jokes are obvious, and I couldn’t help but think that the idea for the movie was much better than the actual film.
The Blu-ray release comes with a DVD and a digital code, as well as a number of extras on the disc. There are a handful of deleted scenes, though none are all that memorable. There is also a feature commentary with co-writer/director Landon, as well as a featurette on his “brand of horror.” Honestly, I thought less of Landon the more I heard him talk about horror films. The worst was a shoddy featurette about ‘The Final Girl,’ a slasher trope that is generically used in Freaky, despite Landon’s claims that they have done something original with it (as he describes the exact arc of every single Final Girl ever). Usually special features can enhance your appreciation of a film, but these just made the issues of the film that much more apparent.
Entertainment Value: 7/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 6/10
Historical Significance: 3/10
Special Features: 6/10