A more accurate title for “Freaky,” the new Vince Vaughn slasher comedy now playing in theatres, might have been “Freaky Friday the 13th.” A mix and match of the classic body swapping kid’s comedy and the Jason Voorhees horror movies, it has laughs and a surprisingly high body count.
The film opens with a killer on the rampage. The Blissfield Butcher (Vince Vaughn), part urban legend, part serial killer, is doing what he does best, finding interesting ways to murder young, attractive people. In an attempt to gain supernatural powers he stabs teenage outcast Millie Kessler (Kathryn Newton) with a ceremonial knife called the La Dola Dagger. Something mystical happens, alright, but not the transformation the Butcher hoped for. As he stabs the high school senior, they switch bodies. The hulking serial killer’s body is now inhabited by Millie’s essence and vice versa. According to the legend of the dagger they have just twenty-four hours to reverse the curse or they will be trapped in the wrong bodies forever. “Look, I know I look like The Butcher. But it’s Millie.”
Part of the built-in fun of director Christopher Landon’s “Freaky” is Vaughn’s performance. His change from menacing killer to teenager is as ridiculous as it sounds, but it takes advantage of the actor’s comedy chops. He adopts Millie’s mannerisms in subtle ways and adds in other touches, like constantly bumping his head because her new body is a foot or so taller than the old one. He even brings a genuine lightness to a budding romance between his alter ego and her crush Booker (Uriah Shelton). By the time he proves that he’s actually Millie in the Butcher’s body by answering questions—“I tell people my favorite movie is Eternal Sunshine but it’s actually Pitch Perfect 2.”—the transformation is complete. It’s fun work from an actor whose recent resume doesn’t contain many laughs.
“Freaky” rides the line between slasher movie, dark comedy and satire. As it has fun with high-school stereotypes it delivers some genuinely creepy moments even if Landon has some trouble calibrating the humour and the horror. After a strong start, and some engaging moments, it gets trapped trying to reinvent the movies that inspired it.