'Freaky'

by 24USATVNov. 13, 2020, 4 p.m. 21
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Whenever I see the Blumhouse logo, I'm never sure what to expect.

Producer Jason Blum has made a lot of profitable but forgettable horror films like "The Gallows" and "Ouija," but we have to give him credit for terrific films and TV shows like "Get Out," "Whiplash" and "The Good Lord Bird."

Cash from the trash can make good stuff possible.

His newest offering "Freaky" shows both sides of Blum's instincts as a producer. There's a lot crass, rote filmmaking, but occasionally director Christopher Landon (who helmed the Blum-produced "Happy Death Day") transcends the mediocre chills. Here Landon and co-screenwriter Michael Kennedy retool "Freaky Friday" and "Face/Off" into a tired, sadistic slasher that features some genuinely funny performances from Kathryn Newton ("Big Little Lies") and Vince Vaughn.

The small town if Blissville seems pretty sedate for a burg where an almost legendary serial killer dubbed "The Blissville Butcher" (Vaughn) is roaming free and slaughtering teens. Landon and company do nothing to dissuade viewers that they've seen this before. There are giant title cards reminding viewers that Friday the 13th, which is the movie's opening date, is around the corner.

The killer also sports a mask that might make the nearsighted believe he's getting ready to play hockey.

Before one can wonder how a killer the size of the gargantuan Vaughn (6-foot, 5 ¼-inches) could remain hidden for so long, Landon switches gears and delivers chuckles more easily than chills.

Newton plays Millie Kessler, who is mourning the death of her father and suffering the slings and arrows of her teen peers because she has to buy her clothes from discount stores.

As do her classmates, she attends every football game but gets grief because she's the beaver mascot instead of a cheerleader. The getup makes it harder for her to run away when the Butcher targets her. Strangely she survives the attack, for which the killer mistakenly used an ancient Aztec sacrificial blade.

The next morning, she and the Butcher awaken in each other's bodies.

As a result, the killer now has a new set of targets because he's occupying Millie's physique, and she has 24 hours to return to her own body before she risks going to prison or worse for his murders.

Newton and Vaughn seem to enjoy playing each other's initial roles. Inside his hulking physique, Vaughn is a natural goofball and seems flustered and revulsed by his own bod. He thankfully avoids winking at the audience in his new persona and commits to being a 6-foot, 5 ¼-inches, broad-shouldered teenage girl.

Newton turns colder than the Antarctic and projects a single-minded menace that makes her just as terrifying as her larger co-star can be. Being a guy on the inside, she expertly ropes in gullible dudes because he knows how to appeal to their basest instincts.

Because the two leads get so much mileage from this material, it's a shame Landon and Kennedy couldn't have kept up with their stars. The name of the Aztec sacrificial blade demonstrates neither writer bothered to look into Central American mythology, and the lack of effort or imagination is evident throughout. The high school in the film has a cryogenic freezer (what school district other than the one in "Bad Education" could afford that?), but there's no explanation for why it's there except to get a novel fatality.

"Freaky" could have been one of Blum's choice offerings, but to its credit, there are moments when banality takes a break.

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