Freaky is a 2020 American comedy horror film directed by Christopher Landon, from a screenplay by Landon and Michael Kennedy, and starring Vince Vaughn, Kathryn Newton, Katie Finneran, Celeste O’Connor, and Alan Ruck. A twist on Freaky Friday, the film tells the story of a high school student who unintentionally switches bodies with a serial killer. Jason Blum serves as a producer under his Blumhouse Productions banner.

Freaky premiered at Beyond Fest on October 8, 2020, and was theatrically released in the United States on November 13, 2020, by Universal Pictures. The film received generally positive reviews from critics, who praised Vaughn and Newton’s performances, as well as the blend of horror and comedy.

Plot

Four teenagers are brutally murdered by a serial killer known as the Blissfield Butcher, who during his murder spree steals an ancient dagger known as La Dola.

The next day, bullied high school student Millie Kessler attends the Blissfield Valley High School homecoming football game, where she performs as the school mascot, the Blissfield Valley High Beaver. After the game, Millie waits for a ride home but is attacked by the Butcher. He stabs Millie in the shoulder with La Dola, causing an identical wound to instantly appear on him. Millie’s older sister Charlene, who is a police officer, arrives and scares off the Butcher. The police collect La Dola as evidence.

The next day, the Butcher and Millie awake in each other’s bodies. At school, the Butcher kills one of Millie’s tormentors, Ryler, by locking her in a cryotherapy tank. He realizes his innocent appearance grants him immunity from suspicion. Meanwhile, Millie finds her friends Nyla and Josh and proves her identity to them by performing the school mascot’s dance routine. Nyla and Josh research La Dola and discover that Millie must stab the Butcher with the dagger by midnight or else the body switch will be permanent.

Later, the Butcher lures Millie’s crush Booker into a laser tag arena, but Millie, Nyla, and Josh arrive in time to save him. Millie knocks the Butcher and Booker unconscious. After tying the Butcher to a chair at Josh’s house, Millie and Nyla try to explain the situation to Booker, who remains unconvinced until Millie recites a love poem she anonymously wrote to him.

Josh stays with the Butcher while Millie, Nyla, and Booker drive to the police station to acquire La Dola. Nyla tricks Charlene into leaving the station so she can search for La Dola. In the car, Booker reveals that he likes Millie, and Millie divulges the newfound strength and confidence she feels from being in the Butcher’s body.

The Butcher escapes, and Charlene catches Nyla stealing La Dola. Millie sees the Butcher enter the police station and runs in after him, but Charlene tries to detain her. Millie overpowers her and apologetically locks her in a jail cell while the Butcher escapes in a police car.

At the Blissfield Valley High Homecoming dance, the Butcher kills four football players. Millie finds the Butcher, and Nyla and Josh hold him down while Booker staves off the police. Millie stabs the Butcher with La Dola, and they switch bodies just as the police shoot the Butcher.

Later, the Butcher escapes from an ambulance and attacks Millie at her house, mocking her body’s weakness and anxiety. Millie, Charlene, and their mother struggle to overpower the Butcher, but Millie finally kills him by stabbing him with a broken table leg.

Cast

  • Vince Vaughn as the Blissfield Butcher, an aging serial killer famous for having never been caught. He and Millie trade bodies due to a mystical curse associated with his signature dagger. Vaughn also portrays Millie Kessler when she is in his body.
  • Kathryn Newton as Millie Kessler, Char’s sister and Paula’s daughter, a tormented high school student who unintentionally trades bodies with the Blissfield Butcher. Newton also portrays the Blissfield Butcher when he is in her body.
  • Katie Finneran as Paula Kessler, Char and Millie’s alcoholic widowed mother
  • Celeste O’Connor as Nyla, Millie’s friend
  • Alan Ruck as Mr. Fletcher, Millie’s unsympathetic wood shop teacher
  • Misha Osherovich as Josh, Millie’s good friend
  • Uriah Shelton as Booker, Millie’s crush
  • Radhesh Aria as Kumar, Josh’s friend
  • Dana Drori as Charlene “Char” Kessler, Millie’s older sister and Paula’s daughter who is a police officer

Production

In early August 2019, it was announced that Christopher Landon would write and direct a new horror film with Jason Blum serving as a producer under his Blumhouse Productions banner. Specific plot details were not revealed, but the story would reportedly follow a violent figure wreaking havoc in a small town. Production was expected to begin in October in Atlanta, Georgia, and there was some speculation it could be a reboot of Scream. However, Landon later debunked rumors that the film was a remake of Scream, stating that the upcoming project was to be an original story taking inspiration from Mary Rodgers’s Freaky Friday.

Later in August, it was announced that Kathryn Newton and Vince Vaughn had joined the cast of the film, with the screenplay being written by Landon and Michael Kennedy. In October 2019, Uriah Shelton, Alan Ruck, Katie Finneran, Celeste O’Connor and Misha Osherovich joined the cast of the film.

Filming

Principal photography lasted for 35 days under the original title Freaky Friday the 13th. It began on October 21, 2019, and finished on December 12, 2019.

Release

Freaky had its world premiere at Beyond Fest on October 8, 2020. The film was theatrically released by Universal Pictures on November 13, 2020, before being made available via video on demand on November 30, 2020.

Reception

Box office

Freaky made $1.45 million from 2,472 theaters on its first day, including $200,000 from Thursday night previews.

Critical response

As of November 13, 2020 on Rotten Tomatoes, the film had an approval rating of 84% based on 134 reviews, with an average rating of 6.9/10. The website’s critics consensus reads, “An entertaining slasher with a gender-bending, body-swapping twist, this horror-comedy juggles genres with Freaky fun results.” On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 66 out of 100 based on 32 critics, indicating “generally favorable reviews”. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of “B–” on an A+ to F scale.

Ryan Larson, of Consequence of Sound, gave the film an “A−”, saying that “with an incredible supporting cast and two engaging leads, Freaky is an out and out blast that finds Landon inching closer and closer to slasher masters like Craven and Carpenter”. Heather Wixon, of Daily Dead, gave the film a 4.5 out of 5, saying that “Freaky is easily one of the best supernatural slashers to come along in this era of modern horror, that perfectly blends together horror, humor, and heart seamlessly.”

Writing for The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz gave the film 3 out of 4 stars, saying: “Landon is not aiming to break new ground here – only to use well-trod territory for his own gag- and gross-out-happy ends. This is candy-coloured mayhem, bright and snappy and enjoyably wince-inducing in its desire to disgust. And just as Vaughn can easily play both male murderer and winsome teen girl, so, too, can the charming Newton ace her required flips.”

Future

In November 2020, director Christopher Landon responded to a fan on Twitter who asked if Freaky and Happy Death Day were set in the same world, stating “They def[initely] share the same DNA and there’s a good chance Millie and Tree will bump into each other someday.” Producer Jason Blum has also expressed his desire for a Freaky sequel.

Review:

The Guardian

“Newton, with the less showier of roles, is an effectively ferocious killer … But it’s Vaughn who steals it with career-best work, a surprisingly impactful and, at times, moving turn that goes way beyond the surface silliness of the setup,” writes Benjamin Lee.

“Too often, male actors in a similar scenario (such as Jack Black in Jumanji) play a girl in a man’s body as high camp, leaning into hoary gay affectations, mincing around while doing a high-pitched voice. But Vaughn is so much more studied than that in Freaky, focusing on more specific aspects (the biting of nails, an awkward, never not funny, run, how a change in size then changes behaviour), realising that not all girls act in the same cliched way. It’s a marvellous, thoughtful performance from an actor who’s been doing so very little for so long.”

Rolling Stone

“The sheer gusto with which Vaughn throws himself into the Millie-by-proxy role is a thing to behold,” writes David Fear.

“His commitment to the extended bit that is this high-concept premise works, even when Freaky doesn’t, and if you’d told many of us that there would be a subversive story of female empowerment in a horror-comedy featuring Vaughn as one of two ‘final girls’ … we’d have thought you were certifiably cuckoo. This is 2020, however, which means all bets are off. It also suggests that while there might not be a franchise in the making here, Freaky has stumbled across a winning formula. This could open up whole new avenues for its duo. Now let’s see Vaughn do a remake of Clueless.”

Variety

“At 6’5″, the hulking actor certainly has the build to play a small-town serial killer, and the moment he lowers his mask is nothing if not a nod to Gus Van Sant’s shot-for-shot “Psycho” remake (of all things),” writes Peter Debruge.

“Turns out, Vaughn’s better at playing a teenage girl than he is at harnessing his inner Norman Bates.”

Slate

“Vaughn has the room to give an even bigger performance, and he makes the most of it,” writes Karen Han.

“When Millie, still inside the Butcher, must interact with her crush Booker (Uriah Shelton), the resulting scene is funny — but touching, too, especially as Booker, once he gets over his initial reluctance to believe what’s happening, treats Millie just as he would if she weren’t transformed. It really is just a scene in Freaky between a high school girl and her crush, and Vaughn commits to the emotion of the scene so fully that you almost forget he’s a 50-year-old man.”’

The Hollywood Reporter

“Vaughn shamelessly steals several scenes portraying Millie’s often comedic feminization of the Butcher’s aggro attitude with flowing body movements, shy facial expressions and gentle vocalizations, particularly in an unexpectedly tender scene with Millie’s all-time crush Booker (Uriah Shelton),” writes Justin Lowe.

“Not to be outdone, Newton dials up the belligerence that makes the Butcher so formidable with a plodding gait and glowering glances while discovering the power of her own femininity to counter toxic male hostility.”

Vulture

“Vaughn doesn’t exactly replicate Newton’s performance when he’s playing Millie — when he holds his arms high and close to his sides when he runs, he’s going for some easier idea of what girlishness looks like — but he’s funny with the physicality in more micro ways,” writes Alison Wilmore.

The Wrap

“Newton and Vaughn are both game — although Vaughn does cop out during a kissing scene with Shelton’s character — finding the fun in the physicality of these very different characters,” writes Alonso Duralde in Freaky.

“The Butcher realizes that Millie doesn’t have his physical strength, and Millie keeps bumping her head since she’s not used to a body that’s about a foot taller than her own.”

The Washington Post

“The chief pleasure of Freaky derives from the incongruity of Vaughn’s performance, which the actor never pushes into caricature,” writes Michael O’Sullivan. “Still, it’s a giggle, not a guffaw.”

The New York Times

“As the swappers settle into their new forms, Vaughn and Newton prove remarkably effective at selling the benefits of their alternate packaging,” writes Jeannette Catsoulis. “Their efforts, however, are too often diluted by the film’s lazy plotting and Millie’s hackneyed emotional baggage.”

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