They originally wanted to call this Freaky Friday the 13th but were not allowed to for copyright reasons. This is a shame as it is the perfect title for the film, in fact it was almost certainly their four word pitch. As the extended appellation suggests, this is a body swap slasher movie that borrows heavily from classics in both of these sub-genres.
Unfortunately beyond this mash up, there is very little in Freaky that is new. In terms of stories about two people switching form there are several previous examples of this with each of them being mirrored in some respect in this one, even including the film that is the best of these but the one you’d think would be least imitated here; Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name. Part of the gag in this new movie is that a teenage girl ends up trapped inside a middle aged man but Jack Black effectively closed the book on this in Jumanji and while Vince Vaughn gamely plays the same trick, he isn’t as good.
Psychotic killer horror is an even more crowded field but they still could have done something fresh with this as things like The Guest and Stoker have recently shown. It isn’t Vaughn who gets to play psycho again here as young female Kathryn Newton is in this role for most of the film but again the bar has been raised high already, in this case by Killing Eve, and again this fails to compare.
I mean, the two films this references, Freaky Friday and Friday the 13th, have both already been remade and the latter was repeatedly sequelised first time round so they really couldn’t have picked a more established set up. The film is fun but to have not made more of an effort to bring anything different to the party is almost unforgivable in this context.
There are some creative murders in Freaky (the typical tool of the knife, while being key to the plot, is not used as often as you might expect) and the performances from the two leads are definitely engaging but there are absolutely no surprises here even when the plot is consciously trying to bring some in. Even aside of the films it most closely resembles there are other aspects we’ve seen before as well; with the misfit High School girl, the dead father and the over achieving sibling all mixed up in a knowing horror film this could just as easily have been called The Edge of SevenScream.
So I liked the notion of crashing these concepts together, and I still look forward to seeing someone one day make Miami Vice Versa, but the innovative ideas here didn’t run as far as they promised or needed to.
The Ripley Factor:
It is great to see a young woman showing real confidence and standing up to bullies and sex pests (one of the jocks is sensitive but all of the others appear to be rapists) but since she had to be possessed by a man for this to happen it isn’t the strongest feminist message.