Director Christopher Landon’s first film, Happy Death Day created one of my favorite female protagonists in modern horror. Plus, a creative, winning idea. Take a classic like Groundhog Day and make it horror. So when his latest, Freaky turned out to be a similar style, I was on board. Freaky, while not as perfect as Landon’s debut does have some special things going for it. The film itself is a love letter to classic horror movies. This Freaky movie review discusses some of the ways it appeals to a hardcore horror fan like myself.
One of Freaky’s strengths is its opening scene.
Starring Vince Vaughn as the town’s infamous Blissfield Butcher. A urban legend style serial killer. Wearing a ancient, museum style mask, he charges at his victims with a frightening ferocity. Evoking inspiration from a faster paced Jason Voorhees. The mask also resembles Jason’s hockey mask. In fact, it’s scarier.
The scene itself is a slasher homage. Using typical tropes of the genre but building onto it with over the top kills.
In fact, if I’m being honest, I wish I could’ve seen some more of that character. Not sure what that makes me. But it left me wanting a bit more.
That’s not to say Millie as the Butcher doesn’t have some great moments. In fact, some of her kills are the goriest. Including a memorably sick scene with the school’s table saw. And a brutal demise for Alan Ruck.
The Butcher and Millie switch places after he murders her on the school’s football field. As the school mascot she’s still in uniform. When he kills her with a magical dagger (which he stole in the beginning scene) a spell is cast that puts them in the other’s body.
The next morning, Friday the 13th (of course) they wake having switched places. They learn they have twenty four hours to switch back using the dagger. Otherwise they’re stuck in each other’s bodies forever.
Like many comedic switch movies it emulates, Freaky’s characters soon relish their new bodies. Millie finds a new confidence. Our killer can enjoy a buffet of high schoolers the situation has presented him.
Happy Death Day’s Tree Gelbman embodied an anti hero that we could both hate and then root for and like. Freaky’s Millie has a different vibe. At first we see her as sympathetic. A quiet high-schooler who has been enduring constant bullying for years. She’s also dealing with her father’s death and an alcoholic mother still mourning him a year later.
We see her walking into school wearing a simple, muted dress and cardigan which will be ridiculed for being second hand. Between her walk and personality, she’s not quite comfortable in her own skin.
She’s also still grieving the loss of her father. Loss is a repetitive theme in Landon’s films. In Happy Death Day to You’s sequel, one storyline has Tree experiencing a reality with her mom still alive. It focuses on the idea: What if you could talk to your loved one who was gone one last time?
Once Millie switches with the Butcher everything changes. Despite being a crazed murderer, she also gains an emboldened sense of self. She’s no longer a wallflower. Donning a red hot leather jacket matching lipstick and a high pony Millie ironically gains the confidence she always needed. She remains likable while being the killer.
Vince Vaughn’s switch makes him more likable too. Turns out, his trademark quick witted banter is perfectly suited to this role and scenes with him playing a seventeen year old female are played to staggeringly close perfection.
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Overall, Freaky is a fun horror movie that celebrates what makes slashers great.
It harkens back to the classics with easter eggs and homage style scenes. Memorable Shots of Millie pay tribute to the Shining and Candyman.
But it also breaks barriers in the slasher world
There’s Josh, Millie’s David Rose style best friend. He’s propositioned by a closeted jock at the school dance. In a scene that feels reminiscent of Heathers.
Then, there’s her love interest, Booker. He remains interested even when she’s in the Butcher’s body. And a short romantic scene is something we wouldn’t have seen before. In 2002’s The Hot Chick, Rob Schneider switches places with high schooler Rachel McAdams. As Schneider she convinces her own jock (Matthew Lawrence) that she is really his girlfriend. He tries kissing her but is too weirded out. A movie cliche that Freaky is quick to rectify.
Like any good horror, Freaky also celebrates strong women. Millie, her mom, and her policewoman sister are a team that are fighting a loss which has divided them. In coming together against the Butcher they can be in a sense, reunited.
Freaky pays tribute to the greats while telling a fresh new story. Using a popular old theme.
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