‘Freaky’ Blu-Ray Review – Body Swap Horror Comedy Is An Inventive Gore-Filled Delight

Body swapping in film is not a new concept by any stretch of the imagination. Of course, Freaky Friday is the quintessential body swap movie, but plenty of films have put their own spin on the genre. While these films typically are comedic in nature, it is something of a new concept to blend it with the horror genre. That Freaky comes from Christopher Landon, the mind behind the excellent fellow Blumhouse picture Happy Death Day, makes a lot of sense. The film takes the Scream approach to the proceedings as it approaches every ridiculous setup with a knowing wink that tells you it is here to have some fun. 

The premise is simple enough: what would happen if a ruthless serial killer swapped bodies with a wallflower of a teenage girl? The opening scene evokes nostalgia for 90s slasher films as four model-esque teens set themselves up to be the perfect victims for a killer only known as The Blissfield Butcher (Vince Vaughn). It is quickly established that Freaky is really going to earn its R-rating, as practical effects bring forth gloriously bloody kills that we do not get enough of in mainstream horror these days. In a perfectly cornball twist of fate, The Butcher stumbles across an ancient dagger in the course of his killing spree that will help get the plot going a little later. 

Elsewhere in town, we meet the wholesome Millie (Kathryn Newton), a dorky high school student who has been a crutch for her alcoholic mother since her father died a year ago. Millie slinks her way through school with only her two best friends Josh (Misha Osherovich) and Nyla (Celeste O’Connor) having her back. If there is one area where the movie nearly goes too unbelievable, it is having the audience believe that Newton would ever be any kind of social outcast. This is not a ding against Newton’s acting – she is very convincing in her physicality – but it is Kathryn Newton for Pete’s sake. Unfortunately for Millie, she finds herself face to face with The Butcher late one night after a football game where she has been abandoned by her passed out mother. What The Butcher does not know is that the new dagger he snagged has mystical powers and his attempt to kill Millie only activates the ancient curse associated with it. When Millie wakes up the next morning, she is in an old abandoned warehouse that serves as home base for The Butcher – trapped in his body. 

While Newton as an overlooked shrinking violet feels like a bit of a stretch, she gets to really shine and have fun when The Butcher wakes up in Millie’s body. Thankfully Landon and company keeps things from becoming too gross as The Butcher is only interested in, well, butchering. Newton plays the steely, murderous role with a confident lunacy that is a blast to watch. As much fun as this is, it is Vince Vaughn that is the MVP of the film with his embodiment of Millie. To see such a hulking figure play the demure, unsure role to such perfection is so completely satisfying. The movie goes for some easy laughs (yes, wieners are weird), but it also has some clever jokes that sneak up on you. Keeping the tone established in the opening scene, the movie can be absurdly broad and ridiculous at times. There is a moment deep in the film that involves an unexpected kiss that really stretches the realm of believability, even for this movie, but it does deliver laughs. The only drawback to this exaggerated comedy is the lack of impact when the movie does try to touch on some more emotional moments that cannot really land. 

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For those who are coming more for the gory, thrilling aspects of the vehicle, you can rest assured that this film delivers the good. The Butcher finds increasingly more violent ways to dispatch pretty much anyone who comes across his path that he could conceivably kill. When you see the psychopath eyeing a table saw, you know there is a possibility of a fun kill on the horizon, but the way in which this team goes for broke with the gore is a demented delight. The movie does lose a bit of steam as it comes in for a landing with its mythical plan to get Millie her body back, but at just a hair over an hour and forty minutes it never feels like a slog. Not every single comedic swing works in the course of this film, but the batting average is surprisingly high. While the body swapping is primarily played for laughs, it does allow for a pretty satisfying arc for Millie as she gains a greater confidence in herself through her experiences in another’s shell. Freaky is a love letter to slasher movies, but it has enough original ideas executed incredibly well that it feels more than just a recycling of old tropes. 

Video Quality

Freaky comes to Blu-Ray in a strong 1080p presentation in its 2:39.1 OAR that allows this movie to show off in high definition. Color saturation is great with the natural color palette consistently represented perfectly throughout. The buckets of blood that are featured throughout the runtime really pop off the screen. Skin tones are natural with some nuanced details featured even in medium shots. There is a lot of activity in a multitude of environments, which provides a lot of opportunity for fine detail from the production design to shine on screen. The clarity throughout is truly outstanding with subtle flourishes of the locations and clothing coming through crystal clear. Black levels are pretty deep and do not fall victim to any noticeable banding or macroblocking. There is a fair amount of source noise that more sensitive viewers may be distracted by, but it does not make for an unpleasant experience. Universal Pictures Home Entertainment has provided a Blu-Ray presentation that is pretty great in the absence of a 4K UHD Blu-Ray.

Audio Quality

Freaky comes to Blu-Ray with a powerhouse DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track. The movie is very lively with frequent bursts of activity when violent acts start being committed. The low end of the track is especially active during these moments with a bit of house shaking happening. The dialogue and sound effects are appropriately balanced with the menacing score where nothing gets lost in the track. Surround channels get well-defined activity during most scenes, especially in the crowded school hallways, noisy classrooms and raucous football games. The elements related to racking up a body count such as the squish from a knife entering a person or the revving of a chainsaw are rendered well. This track earns top marks from Universal. 

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Special Features

  • Audio Commentary: Co-Writer/Director Christopher Landon gives a fun and informative commentary track which delves into pretty much every production element about which you might be curious. Landon discusses shooting on location at a real high school, the freezing weather during the shoot, the practical effects and much more. He does a really good job of not letting dead air crop up as he speaks pretty consistently from beginning to end. 
  • Deleted Scenes: Three unused scenes totaling nearly six minutes are included here featuring Millie being spooked in her mind by The Butcher and an amusing scene with a slow-moving ride share driver. 
  • Split Personalities – Millie vs. The Butcher: A two-minute featurette in which Vaughn and Newton discuss their transformations into one another on screen and how they went about nailing the physicalities of one another. 
  • Crafting the Kills: A nearly four-minute featurette which explores the epic, gross kills that are featured in the film. It is cool to get a closer look at how they pulled off some of the death scenes. 
  • Christopher Landon’s Brand of Horror: A nearly three-minute featurette which gives a closer look at the really fun style that Landon brings to his films. As someone who has enjoyed what I have seen of his work until this point, I hope he keeps doing what he is doing. 
  • Final Girl Reframed: A three-minute look at the “final girl” trope and how Millie shakes up the mold somewhat and how her friends are an essential part of her story. 

 

 

Final Thoughts

Freaky takes a classic genre trope and delivers something really unhinged and inventive that should not be missed by genre fans. Kathryn Newton and Vince Vaughn are pitch perfect in their respective roles, delivering big laughs and blood-soaked violence. Universal Pictures Home Entertainment has provided a Blu-Ray with an amazing A/V presentation and some supplemental features that are worth your time. This cannot be recommended more highly to anyone searching for consistent laughs and copious amounts of carnage. Recommended 

Freaky is currently available to purchase on Blu-Ray, DVD and Digital. 

Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.

Disclaimer: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.

 

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