Within the horror film genre, exists the slasher film subgenre. Films like 1974’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre and John Carpenter’s 1978 film Halloween began the slasher film craze, with other films such as 1980’s Friday the 13th and Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street quickly following suit. However, after countless sequels, spin-offs and remakes, the slasher subgenre quickly became stale, with many fans complaining about reused clichés from the 1980s and predictable plots. Does Freaky break that formula or does it fall victim to slasher purgatory?
Millie Kessler (played by Kathryn Newton) is a shy high schooler who lives with her single, alcoholic mother and sister, Char, in Blissfield, Michigan. Rumors of a serial killer known as the Blissfield Butcher (played by Vince Vaughn) surface after a series of grisly murders. One night, Millie is confronted by the Butcher who stabs her in the shoulder with a magical dagger know as La Dola. This causes the two to switch bodies, putting the killer into Millie’s body and Mille into the killer’s. Now, Millie needs to switch back to her own body before midnight otherwise the switch will be permanent.
Let me preface by saying that I generally don’t enjoy slasher films due to their often formulaic plots and frustrating non-killer characters. The fact that the slasher sub genre is often filled with endless remakes also doesn’t help me break away from my opinion. And while Freaky does fall into certain clichés, what separates it from other slasher films is its characters. Although both the Blissfield Butcher and Millie appear one-dimensional, both Kathryn Newton and Vince Vaughn give it their all and add another layer of subtly to these otherwise one-note characters. However, it’s not until their characters switch bodies is when their acting shines through and through. Vaughn is ever so lovable trying to play a high school girl, from his mannerisms and movement. Meanwhile, Newton does a scarily good job playing a vicious killer, more so than as Millie.
Despite the rest of the supporting cast suffering from bland writing, they do the most with the material they were given. Misha Osherovich as Josh feels like the stereotypical gay best friend, but gives it their all and even has some funny moments, such as when they try to convince their mom they’re secretly straight. And although she had rather limited screen time, Dana Drori does a wonderful job as Millie’s sister Char who tries to uncover the truth about the Blissfield Butcher while also being a motherly figure to Millie, doing her best to encourage her to follow her own dreams of going to college.
While Freaky contains some stellar and solid performances from its cast, it is still a high school film through and through. This can be seen with the main character who is a conventionally attractive girl who the director has wear an oversized cardigan and act nervous to appear less attractive, only to wear different clothes and style her hair differently to undergo a “glamorous” transformation. Additionally, most of the background characters are one-dimensional tropes such as the popular mean girls, asshole jocks and mean teachers. And most of these characters end up being killed off in a gruesome fashion.
I would like to add that the film does move in a rather linear fashion and contains few surprises. And when the film does try to surprise the audience, it feels tacked on. The biggest example of this would be the ending, where the film tries to pull a last minute twist, but it feels like it was trying to prolong the ending of the film. Perhaps some may enjoy it, but I thought it wasn’t needed, and a more open ending would have sufficed.
Although slasher films are generally not my cup of tea, Freaky definitely provided some entertainment escapism value in addition to delivering on the bloodshed you’d expect from a slasher film. With memorable performances from both newcomer Kathryn Newton, comedic veteran Vince Vaughn and the supporting cast, Freaky is a fun, campy and bloody ride.