In the 1980s, there were two genres that seemed like they were out of control. The first one was the slasher genre, which were cheaply made, mostly with the advantage of Canadian tax breaks, to make a few extra bucks. The other was the body-switching genre.
This trend started with the awful Like Father, Like Son which is only memorable for Kirk Cameron, playing a sex-crazed teen who swears. It’s a total contrast to what he is now. Then, there was Vice Versa, which was better. That was followed a month later by 18 Again, which heavily touted George Burns in the marketing, even though his role comes off as a glorified cameo.
Big with Tom Hanks saved the genre, but I beg to differ if that is a true body-switching movie. Part of the problems with the movies were the actors were trying to play their counterparts, sometimes very badly. By the time Dream A Little Dream hit the screens, there was little to no mention of the body-switching element.
The movie was heavily marketed to the MTV Generation as another flick starring Corey Feldman and Corey Haim. It has some moments.
All these movies were pre-dated by the Disney live-action fantasy comedy Freaky Friday, released in 1976 with a young Jodie Foster and Barbara Harris as daughter and mother who switch bodies, on a Friday the 13th.
I don’t know if you can consider the 2020 Freaky as a parody or homage to the 1976 movie. It was remade in 2003 with Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan. And there were other body switching movies, such as The Hot Chick and The Change Up.
But Freaky takes a twist by having a teenage high schooler switching roles with a serial killer. Vince Vaughn plays the unknown killer, known as the Blissful Butcher, a real-life urban legend, who kills four teenagers early in the movie before snatching a mystical dagger.
Kathryn Newton plays Millie Kessler, a bullied high schooler, who has an over-protective mother and an older sister is a sheriff’s deputy. Her father has died and her mother is still grieving through alcoholism.
Millie plays the school’s mascot at the homecoming game but is left alone when her mother passes out drunk rather than coming to get her. She contacts her sister, Charlene (Dana Drori), to come and get her but the Butcher shows up and attacks her stabbing her with the dagger in the shoulder area. Charlene is able to arrive to scare off the Butcher in time, he’s already switched bodies with Millie.
Waking up on Friday the 13, Butcher/Millie enjoys a nice hardy breakfast. It’s implied the Butcher is homeless and living in an abandoned building as Millie/Butcher wakes up disoriented and afraid.
Butcher/Millie puts on some sexier and risque clothes as she attends school turning heads. Millie/Butcher tries to convince her two friends, Nyla Chones (Celeste O’Connor) and Josh Detmer (Misha Osherovich), a openly gay teen, of what happened.
At school, Butcher/Millie uses her abilities to get even with Mr. Bernardi, a very abusive and uncaring wood shop teacher. He’s played by Alan Ruck, who famously played Cameron in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, so there is a nod to the 1980s teen movie era. And being a wood shop teacher, you know it’s going to be bad when he gets offed.
The Butcher/Millie resorts to violence to killing all of Millie’s tormentors including mean girl Ryler (Melissa Collazo) who is frozen to death in a cryotherapy machine. However, this begs the question, do high schools have these?
The exaggerated level of violence is only directed toward Millie’s tormentors which keeps this from, for lack of a better word, overkill. Freaky is produced by Jason Blum through his Blumhouse Productions company and while most of his movies are hit or miss, this is one of the hits.
Christopher Landon, who directed Happy Death Day and its sequel directs this movie. He also directed the second, third and fourth Paranormal Activity movies.
The movie’s success relies on the performances of Vaughn and Newton to play the characters just right. Vaughn is great in this. Sometimes, I feel he’s playing Vince Vaugh playing a character, but he lets himself escape into the characters. Newton is the bigger surprise. She’s quite good and understands the material.
I did a search and was surprised that she’s only 24 but has been acting for a decade. She was in Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri as the murdered daughter of Frances McDormand’s character. It was a small role but it’s one of the best movies I’ve seen in recent years.
She’s also appeared in other highly acclaimed movies, Blockers and Ben is Back. She’s reportedly filming the third Ant-Man movie. I anticipate Newton will have great successful career. She’s beautiful, got a nice personality and great charisma.
While the movie does go a wee bit longer than most slasher films and I’m not spoiling much, it does have the perfect mix of violence and comedy that is a reminder of another movie, Scream, that helped revitalize the slasher genre. However, this movie takes it to the next level. Unlike the gruesome violence in the failed Fear Street trilogy, this movie knows that less is sometimes more.