As a fun mash-up of “Scream” and “Groundhog Day,” writer/director Christopher Landon found success with 2017’s “Happy Death Day” by having a cynical character reliving her creatively-crafted murders until she identified her killer. With “Freaky,” Landon’s “Freaky Friday the 13th”mash-up, he doesn’t do as well: bland characters swap bodies and their race to reverse the curse is as familiar and uninspired as they are.
In “Freaky,” the town of Blissfield is plagued by a serial killer who kills teens around the time of the high school’s Homecoming. Known as the Blissfield Butcher (Vince Vaughn), the film’s opening sequence shows him at work. Invading the home of an art collector, Butcher grabs a ceremonial mask to wear as he makes short shrift of the four teens inside using the usual slasher staples (taking the nearest object and killing them with it). Attracted to knives, Butcher spots La Dola, a mystical Aztec dagger, and leaves with it as a souvenir.
News of the murders quickly hits the town and high school student Millie (Kathryn Newton), a bullied teen with low self-esteem. Having just lost her father, she spends more time keeping her Chardonnay-swilling mom (Katie Finneran) company than enjoying a school kid’s social calendar, much to the chagrin of older sister/police officer Char (Dana Drori). Though she pines for her crush Booker (Uriah Shelton), she dresses down and doesn’t believe she’s pretty enough despite friends Nyla (Celeste O’Connor) and Josh (Misha Osherovich) telling her differently.
After a school football game, Millie’s stranded for a ride as her Mom’s sleeping off some grapes. She does manage to contact Char before the Butcher appears out of the darkness. With no one around, the Butcher chases and catches Millie on the football field. Wielding La Dola under the full moon, the Butcher’s plan is foiled by Char firing her gun. He manages to stab Millie’s shoulder and mysteriously receives the same wound in return. At midnight, Millie and the Butcher find they’re in each other’s bodies.
Learning La Dola’s power, Millie discovers she has just 24 hours to get La Dola from the police station’s evidence room, find the Butcher, and use La Dola to stab him before she’s permanently stuck in the Butcher’s body. Her obstacles include convincing her friends of the body swap while all of Blissfield hunts her from Char’s now visible police sketch. Meanwhile, the Butcher (in her body) makes over Millie’s appearance to attract boys he’d like to attack.
While all slasher movies are routine and the body swap’s a decent gimmick, the fault of “Freaky” is that Millie and the Butcher are simple standards themselves. While Newton and Vaughn do the best they can with their characters, they deserved better. Newton’s reduced to walking around with a 30 yard stare before bee lining it to a knife she might use- had her behavior had odd quirks like “Silence of the Lamb’s” Buffalo Bill instead of Jason Voorhees, it would have been more fun. Vaughn fares better, brushing off an easy effeminate imitation to show Millie gaining confidence in the body of a beast. Millie (in the Butcher’s body) rebuking Booker’s attempt for a first kiss by saying he’s got yellow teeth is an oddly touching highlight for Vaughn’s efforts.
Though Landon holds your attention, you’re keenly aware of the missed opportunities for the fun that could have been had. With more character quirks for the lead actors to exploit, “Freaky” would have lived up to its title.