Review by Sean Boelman
Christopher Landon’s Happy Death Day perfectly blended horror with the Groundhog Day set-up, so one hoped he would do the same with Freaky Friday in his newest film Freaky. Yet despite this killer premise and a very funny performance from Vince Vaughn, the movie is too weighed down by high school tropes to be as tongue-in-cheek as it seems to hope.
The film follows a socially-awkward teenage girl whose body is swapped with a deranged serial killer, leaving her four hours to reverse the change before it becomes permanent. On paper, this is an extremely cool idea, and Landon and co-writer Michael Kennedy are able to pull it off every once in a while.
What the movie seems to struggle with the most is trying to blend the slasher genre and the fish-out-of-water comedy that comes with the body swap. For the most part, these two sides function mostly independently of one another. There will be a brutal moment, and then a bunch of funny ones, and then the humor stops for another kill.
Additionally, all of the characters in the film are annoyingly archetypal. At first, it seems as if Landon and Kennedy are trying to do something playful and satirical with them, but they soon become too comfortable working with the archetypes and the movie starts to feel quite flat as a result.
Vaughn gives a hilarious performance as the teenage girl trapped inside a middle-aged man’s body. It’s definitely nice to see him return to more comedic fare after his recent dramatic stint. That said, the film fails to take advantage of the rest of its cast. Kathryn Newton is extremely talented but doesn’t have dialogue for much of the movie. And Alan Ruck’s performance is disappointingly one-note.
Perhaps the single biggest problem here, though, is its use of conveniences. The references to Aztec human sacrifice are lazy at best and outright offensive at worst. One of the most obvious instances of this is that the film supposes that a pre-colonial artifact from Central America would have an inscription in modern Spanish, and this is just the beginning of its cultural problems.
Landon does pull off some impressive kills, but this is yet another case of the trailer doing disservice to the movie, revealing most of the best moments. Even more frustrating though, is that Landon doesn’t really allow the aftermath of these brutal deaths to impact the viewer, cutting to a joke right after they end.
Freaky offers some legitimately entertaining moments, but it fails to live up to the tremendous potential it has. Although it obviously wants to put a spin on the formula, it instead falls victim to one too many cliches.
Freaky opens in theaters on November 13.
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