Vince Vaughn gets Freaky in goofball body-swap thriller: Review

Leah Greenblatt
·2 min read

Universal Pictures

You have to hand it to Freaky for taking body horror to its literal, logical extreme: The terror in Christopher Landon's screwball slasher is bodies — or more specifically, landing in the wrong one, thanks to an ancient mystical dagger and (sure, why not?) a convenient trick of Friday the 13th timing.

There's a lot you'll have to just go with, including murder by wine bottle, toilet lid, and tennis racket before the opening credits roll. But logic is hardly the hill this script has come to die on, considering it also insists on asking us to believe that the objectively lovely Millie Kessler (Blockers and Big Little Lies' Kathryn Newton) is considered a total teen outcast, too hopeless to merit anything but scorn or pity from her fellow Blissfield Beavers.

Her dad has passed away, her mom (Brockmire's Katie Finneran) drinks too much chardonnay, and only her best friends Nyla (Celeste O'Connor) and Josh (Misha Osherovic) — two regulation hotties likewise shunned for being Black and gay, respectively — appear to care if she lives or dies, socially. Even the local serial killer, a blank-eyed sociopath they call the Blissfield Butcher (Vince Vaughn), seems to take her actual life as a crime of opportunity: She's alone in the bleachers after the homecoming game, so he might as well stalk her and stab her in the heart.

Except he misses, hitting somewhere near the collarbone, and the knife he's stolen turns out to have more than an ineffective blade; it's a portal, swapping out the souls from their bodies. And so Millie, trapped in the Butcher's lumbering middle-aged skin, has 24 hours to figure out how to claw back her own from a killer who is very much enjoying his snazzy new meat suit.

The concept of the scary movie overlaid with a flurry of pop culture references and meta winks is at least as old as Scream — an approach Landon smartly moved forward with 2017's Happy Death Day, his stabby Gen-Z take on Groundhog Day. There's certainly novelty in watching Vaughn swivel his hips like a JV cheerleader and make smitten eyes at Millie's quarterback crush (Uriah Shelton), and in the extent to which it lets that play out.

Newton, too, is winningly game as the girl whose sweet blond exterior now masks a man who wields a butcher knife or a bandsaw as casually as a scrunchie. But in the presence of so many similarly tart takes on contemporary horror, the screenplay, by Landon and Michael Kennedy, never feels quite as sharp as it should. There's a better, weirder story in here somewhere — about teenage desire and social Darwinism, gender and perception — but the movie (in theaters Friday) seems happy enough to settle for familiar, goofy jokes and jump scares; a freak flag half-flown. Grade: C+

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