Universal / Blumhouse is going back to a reliable well to theatrically release a pop-horror film: Freaky. The often re-booted classic kids comedy Freaky Friday is being genre-bent into becoming a horror film, from the team that did it once before with Happy Death Day.
This seems like an ideal guinea pig to see if horror fans are willing to take a chance on going back to the theaters. Take a famous and beloved trope, in this case, the body swap of Freaky Friday . Except, this time the plot transposes a slasher serial killer, The Blissfield Butcher (veteran actor Vince Vaughn – [Swingers, Wedding Crashers]) with a local high school wallflower, Millie (rising star Kathryn Newton [Blockers, Big Little Lies]).
Blumhouse’s reputation of delivering highly profitable thrills on a tight budget, and Universal studio’s distribution heft would suggest that this represents the type of low risk, high reward outing that just might be able to be successful, even in a pandemic environment. The choice to use a known comic commodity, who is also big and imposing, like Vaughan, and pair him with a charismatic and talented young actress like Newton could be a terrific elixir for those wanting to get into the cinema.
The potential downside is that this is a VERY familiar story, and there is a strong chance that the gag will overstay its welcome. The production team, though, managed to take the also familiar Groundhog Day trope into box office gold with Happy Death Day, and elevated Jessica Rothe to the upper tier of scream queens. Director Christopher Landon (son of the iconic Michael Landon) is fast becoming a Bluhmouse ringer, having directed not just Happy Death Day, but also wrote four of the Paranormal Activity films, so Blumhouse has a lot of trust in him.
Unlike Happy Death Day, Freaky is rated R, which bodes well for horror movie fans. With a source material like this, the actors will need to convincingly deliver the out of body characterization essential to delivering the comic gold. Uriah Shelton, who plays the gay best friend, Booker, appears to be the punch line delivery machine, and this could be a big breakout role for him if his jokes land. He is at risk of seeming like an annoying stereotype, if not careful though. I’m hoping that Celeste O’Connor will get to be more than the “black best friend” but it seems like this die has been cast.
Freaky will be released on Friday, November 13. God speed Blumhouse! Let’s see if horror can bring the fans back to the multiplex!