"I'm a fucking piece."
I can only imagine the pitch - a play on the age-old classic Freaky Friday, but with a horror component.
Over the years, producer Jason Blum has thrived in the low budget horror space. Freaky, a truly unique play on a proven concept, is his newest experiment, and he, along with director Christopher Landon, has unquestionably succeeded.
In traditional genre fashion, Freaky begins with a slaughter as teens socialize over alcohol and scary stories. Their tale? The legend of the Blissfield Butcher, a maniac who terrorized teenagers over Homecoming (not Prom) decades ago. It comes as no surprise that all four of them end up dead in a matter of minutes, with our towering villain roaming free. It is then that we meet Millie, a painfully young, naive, and dare I say lame high school senior with a bedroom covered in pink, flowers, and every other pre-pubescent cliché.
Landon works hard to set the stage for an innocent victim, but Kathryn Newton's Millie is a bit extreme, even by genre standards. Her backstory, sympathetic given her father's passing a year before, has been played out. Her willingness to curtail her future for the sake of her mom's sanity is endearing; however, its effect on her own life is equally uncomfortable and unfortunate.
One night, Millie is left alone in the parking lot, waiting helplessly for her mother to pick her up. When the stadium lights shut down, the Blissfield Butcher arrives, sending Millie (in full Beaver garb) scurrying to the field in hopes of a miracle. Dagger in hand, the Butcher appears ready to claim his next victim; the prophecy written on the handle has other things in mind.
Though many would assume that this is Millie's story, Vince Vaughn appears to have never gotten the memo. Completely unexpected, the comedic genius gives one of the best performances of his storied career as the Blissfield Butcher, adding a vibrant flair to a character that could have gotten lost within the chaos.
While Landon and co-screenwriter Michael Kennedy deserve a load of credit for their ability to navigate both genres, staying within the grey area of both style and tone, the performances are what drive Freaky to insurmountable heights.
Though we only briefly know the distracted and sluggish Millie, Vaughn's ability to expand on her story and provide audiences with a believably horrific body-switching episode is, for lack of a better word, remarkable. With his vocal delivery and somewhat uncontrollable body movements, Vaughn fully commits in his take on the young millennial.
Though many secondary characters fit a painfully obvious stereotype, Landon triumphantly offers them up with a modern sense of intrigue. Freaky could have quickly fallen victim to the overused tropes that often plague such genre films; however, Landon's ability to merge the old with the new breathes life into the story, offering up a concept that works. The two genres masterfully coexist as the film embraces their countering elements, advancing on its own terms.
Unapologetically queer in all the right ways, Freaky isn't as much a cinematic masterpiece as it is simple, high-stakes fun. Though not without its blemishes, it reminds us how enjoyable movies can and should be. With a brilliant cast, an imaginative director, and a producer who allows his creators to run wild, the formula is the perfect receipt for one of the best surprises of the year. Equal parts horrific and funny, Freaky is just what we need amid a global pandemic during a year that features two Friday the 13ths.