Hooptober 2022 #3: Freaky (2020)

As Florida residents and lovers of spooky things, going to Universal Studio’s Halloween Horror Nights is an annual tradition for my spouse and I. For anyone who has never gone or is unaware, Halloween Horror Nights is an after hours event in September and October at Universal Studios. Generally, they’ll have multiple “haunted houses” based on either original creations or known horror films. This year, there is a house based on Christopher Landon’s 2020 horror comedy Freaky. It’s a fun haunted house but as my spouse put it “The house designers and I watched the same movie and got entirely different things out of it.” The house focused on the horror aspects of the film, namely the kills and the supernatural elements. If you had never seen the film, you might think it’s a teenager going on a murderous rampage.

A rewatch after going through that house only confirms what was missing from that house, the humor. Freaky is a funny film with the bonus of being a really good slasher. The working title of the film, Freaky Friday the Thirteenth, tells you all you need to know about the plot. Teenage girl Millie, played by Katherine Langford, swaps bodies with a middle aged male serial killer, played by Vince Vaughan. There’s a lot of gnarly kills but there’s a lot of laughs to go with it.

Langford and Vaughn both lean into the physicality of their performances. of the two, Vaughn’s is the more broad. He doesn’t really act like Langford before their switch but that’s fine. Part of the joke is seeing an actor known for being hyper masculine be a teenage girl. Seeing him stumble about in an Aaron Rodgers mask isn’t any less funny. Langford though nails being both a total wallflower and a predatory monster. The film wouldn’t work if she wasn’t as sympathetic in the opening as she is terrifying once she’s the killer. Seeing her as the killer adjust to not being as physically imposing and still pulling off a kill is deeply satisfying.

Also it needs to be said how deeply queer this film is. When Vaughn as Millie is in the backseat of the car with their crush, they kiss but decide to hold off until Millie is back in own body. A moment that could be played as a homophobic joke becomes a sweet moment acknowledging the absurdity of it all. There’s a joke about pronouns that’s as much about the absurdity situation as it is respecting gender identity. While it doesn’t get too deep into it, gender identity and sexual fluidity is part of this movie. There’s a transgender or non-binary reading of this movie in here.

Calling this a Disney film with a body count isn’t inaccurate. It’s also not an insult for this film. Writer/Director Christopher Landon knowingly draws as much from family friendly entertainment as he does grisly slashers. It’s subversive simply being a horror movie that’s also funny and gets into queer underpinning of the whole situation. Knowing friendly entertainment is in that only makes things funnier.

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