Review by C.J. Bunce
It’s unlikely anyone in 1976 could have foreseen the direction the adaptation of Mary Rodgers’ novel Freaky Friday could take in the 2020s. One of those Walt Disney studio classics before the company issued special re-release limited VHS tapes and merchandised every film to its hilt to become a corporate behemoth, the film starred Jodie Foster and Barbara Harris as mom and daughter swapping bodies and needing to live life literally in the skin of the other. Swap in part-time wacky comedic actor (Wedding Crashers), part-time horror actor (Psycho) Vince Vaughn as a creepy 50-year-old serial killer, and a high schooler named Millie played by young actress Kathryn Newton (Supernatural, Paranormal Activity 4) and you get Freaky, Blumhouse’s latest horror film, now streaming on Vudu, Amazon Prime Video, and other services.
Directed by 1970s icon Michael Landon’s son Christopher Landon, well established now as a slasher movie and slasher comedy movie writer and director, Freaky unfortunately lacks the clever writing, laughs and surprises of his two Happy Death Day movies, and the scares of his Paranormal Activity series. It’s not as good as the idea of this mash-up, and despite a funny trailer and actors who seemed ready for what should have been a winning combination, it works only superficially, in bits sprinkled throughout the movie. The reason is timing and balance. The violence is too dark for a movie that feels like it should lean harder on the comedic absurdity of Vaughn as high school girl. Landon carefully and wisely keeps Vaughn masked for the upfront, real-world terrors. Landon also seems to try to mimic some of the teen angst/family relationship vibe he more artfully blended into Happy Death Day 2U. But the set-ups never arrive at satisfying payoffs, with every plot point a predictable ticking of B-movie horror boxes.
Yes, it tries to be Scream, but it’s more like Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island, sort of ho-hum, when audiences expect Landon to revel in the possible humor and antics seen with Vaughn in Wedding Crashers and so many other roles in TV and movies. Perhaps Jack Black raised the bar too high creating his take on Bethany in the Jumanji movies–this doesn’t come close. Look for Alan Ruck (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Star Trek Generations) as a teacher, and a worthy villain and enemy of Kathryn Newton’s Millie. Newton shows some potential as both the struggling teenager and as the possessed serial killer, but she can’t do much in the confines of this script.
More like the lesser direct-to-Netflix horror than a big screen hit, Freaky is in that vein of movies like The Babysitter or the cheesier side of 1980s horror. Not great, but some fun for fans of the actors and genre, Freaky is now streaming on Vudu and Amazon Prime Video, and it’s expected to arrive soon streaming via local cable providers.