Spoilers will get the popcorn.
Sometimes you need a fun movie. You need to dial up your suspension of disbelief all the way to the top and forget all logic and continuity. Yes, it’s a remake in a horror setting, but let’s be real here and just accept this is going to be a high school comedy with teenagers and Vince Vaughn. I don’t know what’s going on lately but I seem to be revisiting films with actors that I don’t particularly click with and this week it’s Vaughn’s turn. That being said, he’s not playing exactly a type. I do have my reservations about the movie but although I’ll be nitpicking those little things, I can’t deny you’ll have fun with it. You can either enjoy a film despite its flaws or because its own flaws add a certain charm.
Freaky (2020) was directed by Christopher Landon based upon a screenplay he co-wrote with Michael Kennedy. It’s a bodyswap premise, and the trailers are quite upfront about it. There’s a killer on the loose in the otherwise peaceful town of Blissfield nicknamed The Butcher (Vince Vaughn). We meet local high school teenager Millie (Kathryn Newton) who is bullied in her school and made fun by popular clique and here’s our first suspension of disbelief. There’s nothing really wrong with the way Millie looks or the way she dresses, but apparently she’s supposed to be an outsider. Fortunately she’s got her good friends Nyla (Celeste O’Connor) and Josh (Misha Osherovich) by her side to inform the audience that she should really come out of her shell and be more outgoing.
Millie has a loving mom Coral (Katie Finneran) who tends to drink a little too much and forget to pick up her daughter a little too many times, including this time where Millie ends up having a close encounter with The Butcher who has stolen this ancient Aztec knife and there’s a full moon and something weird happens. Fortunately, Millie’s older sister Charlene (Dana Drori) happens to be a police officer and chases the guy off. The next day happens to be Friday the 13th. Don’t worry huge banners will subtly tell you the date in bloody letters, your chances of missing this little factoid are slim. Come morning light, “Millie” wakes up in a warm bed to pancakes and waffles and “The Butcher” wakes up to some guy asking for drugs.
With the premise set, now it’s up to “Millie” to wear a bad girl makeover to school. I don’t know how the stereotypical movie universe serial killer knows how to do makeup, but she stuns everyone at school. In typical cathartic revenge style, it’s up to this “Millie” to take down everyone that tries to bully her. This is kind of a dark wish fulfillment fantasy where you get to punish (ok, ok, eviscerate) everyone that has done you wrong. This is where the tone shifts because “Millie” only seem to kills asshole characters while The Butcher would kill basically anybody.
And of course, we get what we came for with “The Butcher” being the actual Millie trying to convince her friends that it’s really her. This is where Vaughn either sells the premise or sinks. It will work if you don’t take it way too seriously and fortunately the movie doesn’t take it too seriously either. I mean, at the end of the day, it’s Vaughn making a fool of himself acting like a stereotypical teenage girl. In all fairness, he doesn’t completely overdo it, which fits better because the real Millie was not a stereotypical airhead. The bottom line is this is the role that Vaughn actually plays better. After seeing him like this, it’s impossible to really buy him as The Butcher again. However, even if this role I can only stand him for short periods of time so I was really glad some of the ensemble cast get some screen time.
Does this movie work? Well, no. Not by itself. You have to do half the work, add butter to the popcorn and kind of meet the movie halfway. There’s a bit of a callback to the teenage killer slasher flicks that have never gone away in its campiness but any and all horror elements are gone by the time the high school scenes start. The dialog is typical movie teenagers talking as screenwriters think teenagers talk. At least Josh gets to have a fun scene with his mother, but I couldn’t believe Nyla would willingly walk into police station alone. When the movie tries to raise the stakes at the end, the horror doesn’t really work anymore. This is a really small thing since the movie is done by then, but at least it gives us a final victory moment.
Lightly recommended with a bag of popcorn for most audiences. It’s light fare for horror aficionados and comedy buffs might want something raunchier but it’s definite middle-of-the-road for anybody else. I think you will have some fun with it depending on how much you’re willing to join in. The movie is light on logic and heavy on the cheesy side. Turn off your brain and laugh along. Vaughn carries a lot of the film, but I’d say the performances of Kathryn Newton, Celeste O’Connor and Misha Osherovich are a nice compliment if you need a break from Vaughn all the time. It’s hard to call Vaughn’s performance subdued but at least holding back from going completely over the top counts as restraint. Some mindless fun is welcome in an age where you have to be mindful all the time.
That will do for now.