Vince Vaughn, post-Brawl in Cell Block 99, can sell me on imposing. So when someone told me he was going to be both a serial killer and a high school girl in the same film, I was in.
Freaky immediately gets the ball rolling with the killer (Vaughn’s Barney Garris) attacking the house. Literally four minutes in: BOOM, first kill. Around 25 minutes in, we get the “high school girl and killer” body swap between Vaughn and Kathryn Newton (as the victim turned killer, Millie Kessler). This is a film that knows pacing and knows what it is. When kids in a high school shop class get a smart phone alert for “brutally murdered teens,” you know you’re in for a ride.
It doesn’t hurt that there’s a very cool (albeit brief) supernatural element for the body swap, with plenty of levity from director Christopher Landon (who also co-wrote the script). I know what you might be thinking: these types of “swap” movies aren’t new. In fact, Jumanji was just resurrected on the back of swapping young women into older men’s bodies for comedic effect, and soared into two stellar box office gains.
With a clear focus on the two, we get plenty of time for some development on top of the antics. It’s funny to see where the other side lives. Each party wakes up in their respective bedrooms, fully swapped. So Millie is in her cozy home full of teen idol posters, while Barney wakes up in a creepy room full of horrors. It’s also great to see the actions of Millie’s tormenters coming home to roost now that the killer is in control.
Although it doesn’t show it in the most elegant way, the swap serves as an allegory for the meek Millie, as she greets everyone in her school with the confidence of a killer by proxy. Naturally, Millie requires a balance between her two states to really come into her own: her development arrested by the death of her father before the events of the film.
It’s just a shame that near the end, things start to go a little off the rails as the script tries to reconcile multiple plot elements. Not knowing how to end things isn’t unique to the horror genre, but even if you suspend your disbelief you might find yourself wanting more. Either way, Freaky could have leaned too far into the slasher or comedy angle and stumbled; but it’s a fun film that benefits from two strong leads.