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Freaky Movie Review: Let the Teen Horror Renaissance Continue

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BY November 15, 2020
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Freaky, the new horror movie from the gang at Blumhouse, has a pretty appealing formula. Take one part Freaky Friday–original or remixes–and add a dash of horror comedy. To find out if it worked, here’s our review of the movie Freaky.

Freaked: A Brief Essay on Plot

freaky movie review image via Universal Pictures

In case you’ve never seen the 1976 film Freaky Friday or the 1995 remake (or the 2003 remake or the 2018 remake) and you’ve never read the book or seen Vice Versa or 18 Again! or The Hot Chick or Dream a Little Dream or The Change-Up or The Skeleton Key or–good Lord, there are a lot of these movies. Anyway, in case you’re blissfully unaware, then that’s okay. It’s a pretty simple set-up, as that link shows–body swapping.

Through a magic spell or item or my personal favorite, peeing in the same enchanted fountain, two people swap bodies. In Freaky, the body-swappers are the Blissfield Butcher (Vince Vaughn), a legendary serial killer, and teenage girl Millie (Kathryn Newton). After the Butcher steals a ceremonial dagger from a crime scene, he uses it to attack Millie, a Hollywood movie’s idea of a nerd.

Anyone who’s seen The Witcher, though, knows magic requires an exchange. (This is very simplified, I know.) So when the Butcher tries to hurt Millie, he’s hurt at the same time. Startled, he doesn’t complete the murder, and…bada bing, body swap. Now they have 24 hours to complete the ritual, or the swap is permanent. That’s bad news for Millie, who’s in the body of a known killer, but great news for the Butcher, who’s now in the guise of a vulnerable widdle girl.

Are We in a Teen Horror Renaissance?

This is a thought I had during the film, spurred on only by this movie and The Craft: Legacy. However, I thought about it later and remembered The New Mutants, which is basically a horror movie. There’s also Black Christmas and Ma and the Happy Death Day* series. But those aren’t the only ones.

I haven’t seen Netflix’s Babysitter series, but that counts. And I’ve seen some others I won’t mention, because they were terrible. But they count, too. So I would say that yes, we are in a teen horror renaissance, and I, for one, am very here for it. If we get away from everyone trying to make their own Get Outahem, ahem–and go back to classic slashers, then it wouldn’t hurt my feelings.

*Incidentally, Christopher Landon, who cowrote this movie with Michael Kennedy and directed it, also wrote and directed the Happy Death Day series. And of course, his daddy was a teenage werewolf, so awoo in advance.

Freaky Movie Review

freaky movie review image via Universal Pictures

I am pleased to report that Freaky turned out to be a pleasant surprise. While it feels like that more often than not, horror movies have disappointed me lately, I don’t actually know if that’s true. But it feels like it, so I was ready for disappointment again. And again, this was not that.

Instead, I found a movie that’s not particularly scary, but is fun to watch. Christopher Langdon clearly enjoys horror movies. That shows in the little things, like the Butcher wearing a purloined mask that resembles Jason’s iconic look in the Friday the 13th series more than a little. But it’s also in the big things.

Kathryn Newton doesn’t get a lot of dialogue after the switch (because the Butcher is a killer of few words), but she makes the most of what she gets. One line in particular, which she delivers to a generic jock, is more empowering than all of the message-heavy films I’ve seen lately put together. (The line has a naughty word in it, though, so I can’t repeat it on this family website. Also, I don’t wanna spoil the surprise.) And half the joy in the line is in the way she delivers it, making Millie look confident for the first time.

At the same time, though, Millie is actually becoming confident through her experience in the Butcher’s visage. Vince Vaughn gets to do a lot of physical comedy in this movie, as he plays a shorter girl trying to navigate the world in a “giant”‘s body. Once she stops slamming into tree branches, though, she sees the value in it. Or like I, a fun-size person, wrote in my group chat: “Can you imagine the power I’d have if I were suddenly a foot taller?” (Vaughn at 6’5″ is exactly a foot taller than Newton, by the way.)

Freaky Movie Review: The Bottom Line

freaky movie review image via Universal Pictures

But it’s not just Millie-as-the-Butcher scaring her bully.  Langdon and his actors don’t shrink back from how weird any of it would be, in all of its funny and yes, freaky times. I’m thinking specifically of a scene where Millie has to try to figure out how to use the bathroom as a man, as her friends Josh (Misha Osherovich) and Nyla (Celeste O’Connor) bicker outside the stall. Or a scene with Millie and her crush Booker (Uriah Shelton). Both are emblematic of the movie as a whole: sure-footed, clever, and even a little sweet. Freaky isn’t the most groundbreaking horror movie ever made, but it’s a pretty high-water mark in our ongoing teen horror renaissance–have you heard about it?

As always, tell us what you think on our social media or in the comments.

featured image via Universal Pictures

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Salomé Gonstad is a freelance writer who grew up in the swampy wilds of south Alabama. She now splits her time between the Appalachian wilds (of Alabama) and the considerably more refined streets of New York City. When she's not yelling about pop culture on the internet, she's working on a supernatural thriller about her hometown. Also, we're pretty sure she's a werewolf. Email her at salome@comicyears.com.

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