In our most honest moments, we’d all probably like to trade places with someone else for a day: our kids. Our parents. Christian movie reviewers. Jeff Bezos. Maybe even a Kardashian, because who am I to judge?
But few of us would ever want stand in line to become a serial killer for a day. Millie Kessler certainly didn’t.
Sure, maybe her life in Blissfield wasn’t great. Her dad died about a year ago, and that’s been tough on everyone in the Kessler family. She’s been bullied at school for years now. Her shop teacher, Mr. Fletcher, hates her. Why, if it wasn’t for her best friends, Nyla and Josh, she’d probably go a little nuts.
Still, better that than being homicidally crazy, right?
But fate, it seems, has other plans for poor Millie.
One dark night, while waiting for her mother to pick her up from the high school homecoming game (where she worked as the school mascot), she comes face-to-face with the Blissfield Butcher—a killer straight out of town legend. He’s wearing a creepy mask. She’s wearing a bulky beaver outfit. The ensuing chase is never a contest.
But as the Butcher plunges a strange, glowing dagger into Millie’s shoulder, something unexpected happens: The Butcher springs a bloody leak in his shoulder, too.
Police, thankfully, end Millie and the Butcher’s rendezvous there. The Butcher escapes. Millie is escorted safely, painfully home.
Or so it would seem.
The next morning, Millie wakes up in a place out of nightmare: Animal carcasses hang from a warehouse ceiling, bloody and mutilated. A man’s head rests in a toilet bowl. Her parents are nowhere to be found, and—when Millie checks out her own body, finally—neither is she. Somehow, in the fracas the night before, she and the Butcher switched bodies. Little Millie’s now a big, strong, aging murderer.
But that means that the Butcher’s in Millie’s body, too. As someone who lives to kill attractive-but-jerky high schoolers, it’s the perfect disguise. What sort of mayhem could a serial killer create if he/she went to, say, shop class?
Millie clearly needs to get her body back, both so she can graduate on time and save Blissfield High from an unprecedented bloodbath. She doesn’t yet know that the whole switcheroo comes with a time limit, too: She needs to stab her own body with that same magical dagger within 24 hours. If she doesn’t, she’ll be in an aging serial killer’s body forever.
And that could make the homecoming dance—and any school dances thereafter—really uncomfortable.
You gotta like Millie. She’s sweet and nice and, for this movie, at least, relatively wholesome. She cares for her family a great deal—so much so that she’s weighing whether to put off going to college to make sure that her mother (who’s still mourning for her husband) doesn’t fall apart without her.
But she doesn’t see herself as particularly strong: Millie cowers in the face of her cruel bullies and meekly accepts her shop teacher’s verbal abuse. When she claims the body of a strong, towering killer, she admits to someone that it’s empowering. But her confidante corrects her: “Strength doesn’t come from size,” he says. “You’re a lot stronger than you think.” And so she is.
That whole body switcheroo is freighted with both spiritual elements and, if you think about it, theological ramifications. This film doesn’t deal with demonic possession, of course—but the mind or soul of one person does literally possess the body of another. Millie describes the switch taking place between “our consciousness or our spirits or whatever.” So there’s that.
And to what do Millie and the Butcher owe this strange state of affairs? A magical Aztec dagger, of course—one that we learn was used for sacrifices. (If the victim didn’t die, the spirits of both the stabber and the stabbee would switch. Which was, I guess, the Aztec gods’ way of punishing priests for bad aim?)
We see Christian crosses hanging in a Spanish teacher’s classroom. A poem talks about people being “spirits.” A creepy miniature-golf course contains Halloween-like decorations, including ghosts and Grim Reaper-like skeletons; and a sign pointing the way tells would-be customers, “Tee you in hell.”
To reiterate: The film sends the consciousness of a petite high-school girl into the body of a hulking, adult man. And it mines this premise for all the gender-bending comedy it can.
Millie is fascinated by her new plumbing, shaking her hips to-and-fro while in a bathroom stall to shake other bits of anatomy, as well. (We hear skin slapping.) She kindles a teen (?) romance with her longtime crush, too, whom she successfully convinces of the switch: The Butcher’s body kisses and cuddles with a high school boy until Millie stops the action—suggesting they both wait for her to switch bodies again.
The Millie-inhabiting Butcher isn’t concerned with romance, though he does squeeze his breasts as he tries to confirm the switch. But the Butcher Millie dresses more provocatively than the real Millie would, drawing interest from several high school boys. (One squeezes her rear. A boy also pulls her away to a secluded spot, anticipating that he and two of his friends will have sex with her. It doesn’t seem to matter to any of the three boys whether the sex will be consensual or not.)
Two teens have sex standing up. Nothing critical is seen, but the movements, and the ensuing conversation about who climaxed and who didn’t, makes it pretty obvious.
Josh, one of Millie’s best friends, is gay and stereotypically effeminate. He talks about boys at times (ruminating about “drunk straight boys who suddenly realize they’re fluid”), but he pushes away a football player who forces a kiss on him. (The football player tells Josh that he’ll kill him if he ever tells.) Though he makes no secret of his sexual leanings, he does try to convince his mother that he’s straight. “Joshua, you are many things,” his exasperated mother says. “But straight is not one of them.”
We hear lots of references to various body parts (often using very crude terms) and lewd acts performed with vegetables. We see and hear references to sexual role-playing and bondage. The Butcher, as Millie, plays suggestively with a high school girl’s hair when the two are alone, leading the girl to conclude that “Millie” is a lesbian and making an unwanted pass at her.
A basement has a couple of nude sculptures in it, and a guy briefly plays with the breasts of a small female figurine. Teens kiss. Someone makes an anatomically crude comment to a man walking his dog. A man offers to perform oral sex in exchange for drugs. A guy’s bare back is visible as he showers. And a teen girl takes a bath, her body is covered by bubbles. Crude rumors are spread on a bathroom stall wall, and we also see what appears to be a very nasty visual reference to anal sex in a drawing there.
Yes, Freaky is technically a comedy. But it’s an incredibly bloody comedy, with four people dying horribly in the movie’s first 10 minutes. And they’re far from the last to meet their Maker.
Someone dies after getting stabbed with a chainsaw. A victim is stabbed in the neck with a screwdriver (blood squirts from the wound) before getting sawed in half by a table saw. (Yes, we see it.) A wine bottle is shoved far down another victim’s throat, then broken—sending shards of glass through the neck and allowing wine and blood to flow freely. The Butcher forces a woman’s head into a toilet, then crushes her skull with the seat. A guy is impaled with a wooden chair leg. Someone is stabbed in the back and hung on the wall like a grotesque painting.
A man is decapitated. Two guys are incapacitated by a liquor bottle: One has it smashed over his head, while the other is slashed across the throat with the broken end. (Blood, naturally, gushes from the wound.) The Butcher kills someone with a broken tennis racket—shoving the two splintery ends into each side of the victim’s head. A person is frozen to death in a cryotherapy machine. (When found, the frozen corpse tumbles out and smashes on the ground.) A person is stabbed through the eye with a hook.
People are shot and stabbed. Millie, in the body of the Butcher, is seriously beat up by a couple of her friends. Testicles are smashed. Tater tots are thrown. People fall down. We see mangled animal corpses.
We hear at least 36 f-words, 16 s-words and one c-word. We also hear “a–,” “b–ch,” “d–n,” “h—” and “p-ss.” God’s name is misused at least 16 times, three of those with “d–n.” Jesus’ name is also abused three times. The license plate on Josh’s car contains a profanity.
Millie’s mom may have a drinking problem, drowning her grief in bottles of chardonnay. In fact, she drinks enough to pass out (as her daughter characterizes it), forgetting to pick Millie up from a football game (and thus leaving her vulnerable to the Butcher). It’s not the first time it’s happened, either.
High schoolers drink alcohol, often to obvious excess. A teen drops a very expensive bottle of wine in fright. We see graffiti of a marijuana leaf. A man asks Millie—in the form of the Butcher—for drugs. Millie insists she doesn’t have any, but when she starts asking the other guy if she looks like a teenage girl, the addict assumes that he (as he assumes her to be) must be high himself.
Millie revels in the ability to stand up while urinating, but she misses the toilet bowl when she turns around to talk (which we don’t see but do hear).
Freaky? You got that right.
The name points to Freaky Friday—a 1972 book by Mary Rodgers that inspired no fewer than four Disney movies. I’m not familiar with the book, but the films I’m familiar with were fun and clever and clean—and great explorations of a familial grass-is-always-greener concept. Wouldn’t it be great to be a kid again without responsibilities? Wouldn’t it be great to be an adult with so many more options?
But Freaky—which, I’m sure, this film’s creators would’ve loved to have called Freaky Friday the 13th had it not been for all the copyright violations—serves up more of a grass-is-always-redder scenario. Wouldn’t it be great to kill all the people in your life who, let’s be honest, seemingly deserve it?
Slasher flicks have always predicated at least some of their bloody appeal on their penchant for killing off truly scummy characters. Add to that stew this Disney-esque soul switcheroo, toss in comic actor Vince Vaughn as both a hulking serial killer and a teenage girl, and you’ve got a strange dish indeed.
The best, funniest parts of the film feel like they belong in something sweeter, more family friendly, more Freaky Friday-ish. Alas, these light moments are in a much darker environment. When you see someone die by having a wine bottle crushed in his throat five minutes in, you know you’re in for a grotesquely bumpy ride. The sexual content and language and all the other problems wash that road out altogether.
Freaky is, in a lot of ways, like the Butcher when he’s dressed up in Millie’s skin: Sure, it may look cute at first glance. But take a peak under the surface, and you find something dark and ugly.
Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.