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If you find yourself wondering whether you have stumbled upon another to sequel to Happy Death Day during the opening minutes of Freaky, you're not far off. Writer/Director Christopher Landon injects similar humor into this horror comedy, which also offers an energetic female lead and a game supporting cast. This time out, Kathryn Newton plays high-school outcast Millie Kessler, who is stalked by the Blissfield Butcher, a serial killer played by Vince Vaughn. Through some nifty magic via a dagger known as "La Dola," the butcher and Millie unwittingly switch bodies. Now, the brutal killer has the innocent shroud of a teenager, and Millie freaks out the entire town walking around in the pants of a murderer. Freaky is a welcome entry in the body-swap genre, and is a breezy, entertaining sit.
The small town of Blissfield has a big problem: A serial killer butchers local teenagers every year during the high school's homecoming. The Butcher is something of an urban legend, but he turns out to be very real when several teenagers are brutally murdered in the film's opening sequence. The Butcher chose this house because its owner possessed the mythical dagger, which the Butcher takes after offing the teens. He soon encounters Millie at the darkened high school after a football game. She serves as the team's mascot, and her mom (Katie Finneran) passed out drunk on the couch again instead of picking her up. After a short chase, the Butcher stabs Millie in the shoulder with the dagger right as Millie's older, police officer sister Charlene (Dana Drori) arrives to scare him off. Millie goes home to tend her wound and quickly falls asleep. When her alarm clock chimes the next morning, it is the Butcher inside Millie's body and in her bed. Millie awakens in some flop house as a 50-year-old psychopath and quickly realizes she is in for a very long day.
The killer versus teens plot itself is not unique, but it makes for a fun, violent play on Freaky Friday. Vaughn and Newton are fine before the swap, but, post switcheroo, the actors really come alive in their roles. Both clearly have a blast playing on the personalities and appearances of the other. "Millie" does not immediately rock the boat, and instead plays nice with her friends Nyla (Celeste O'Connor) and Josh (Misha Osherovich) at school. The Butcher's bloodlust quickly surfaces, particularly when he realizes he can walk around unnoticed in Millie's body. When the pair comes face to face at school, the Butcher quickly throws Millie, lugging around his infamous body, to the wolves. There are plenty of great interactions between these characters, as well as offshoots with the supporting cast. Both leads are really entertaining throughout; particularly when Newton must start killing and Vaughn goes in for a kiss with Millie's crush (Uriah Shelton).
A lot of what goes on here is improbable, even if you ignore the whole body-swap plot device. Why did Millie not go to the hospital after being stabbed? Why does a small town have dozens of murders and not seem to throw much investigative power into solving the case? Really, who cares; Freaky is a 101-minute blast. Some of the kills are quite violent and over the top, but none of these sequences garner much tension. Freaky is most successful when it lets Vaughn and Newton run wild. Emotional subplots about Millie's dead father, her doting crush and Millie's family drama hardly register, but they do not create much of a distraction. It's nice to see Vaughn having fun, and Landon is becoming quite consistent churning out entertaining horror comedies.
Universal presents Freaky with a 2.39:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image that is largely bright and clear, with strong fine-object detail and texture. There is some moderate digital noise present in several scenes. Colors are bright and nicely saturated, black levels are good, and shadow detail is appropriate. I noticed no issues with edge enhancement.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix offers appropriately raucous surround action at times, with assistance from the LFE, to support the horror or action elements here. Dialogue is crisp and clear; effects and score are appropriately balanced, too. I noticed no issues with crowding or distortion. French and Spanish 5.1 DTS mixes are included, as are English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This two-disc set includes the Blu-ray, a DVD copy and a digital code. The case is wrapped in a slipcover. Extras include Deleted Scenes (5:27/HD); an Audio Commentary by Writer/Director Christopher Landon; and short featurettes Split Personalities: Millie vs. The Butcher (2:24/HD), Crafting the Kills (3:35/HD), Christopher Landon's Brand of Horror (2:35/HD), and Final Girl Reframed (2:48/HD).
Christopher Landon's Freaky is not trying to reinvent the wheel, but this horror comedy is a violent, entertaining entry in the body-swap drama. Kathryn Newton and Vince Vaughn are game to swap roles as a teenage outcast and a serial killer, and much fun is had as the pair navigates the dicey day after they switch bodies. Recommended.
William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.