This year, Halloween ended with a thud, even though it landed on a Saturday with a full moon. It’s a few weeks later and Blumhouse is giving us a horror/comedy mash-up of genres. And just like when you have that friend who sends you two songs that are mashed up together, and they think it’s brilliant. You listen, and just sort of shrug your shoulders and say “Okay, so…they have a similar drum beat, but they don’t go together quite as well as you thought.”
Yet as disappointed as I was in the first 20 minutes of this movie, at least once they go with the comedic premise of a high school girl swapping bodies with a physically-imposing serial killer (Vince Vaughn), it does provide enough laughs to make it somewhat interesting and fun.
Yes, it’s like a Freaky Friday the 13th. This killer is about to stab his latest victim on the football field, during a full moon, using an ancient dagger he found at the last victim’s house. This causes their bodies to swap just as he stabs her in the shoulder.
It’s fun when the filmmakers riff on some well-known tropes, although it was a bit unbelievable when high-schooler Millie (Kathryn Newton) is picked on, when she’s actually gorgeous. Just because her single mom works at a discount store and gets her outfits there, I’m sure no teen boy would have a problem dating her. She has two best friends, Nyla (Celeste O’Connor) and Josh (Misha Osherovich). She’s African-American, and he’s gay. So they felt like the best friends out of Clueless or one of those teen films. And they provide some fun comic relief. And the scene where the killer has to convince them he’s really their best friend in a different body, is a blast. There’s another scene where the gay teen has to convince his mom he’s straight. It was a fun scene.
Part of the problem is that the movie takes too long to get to this clever premise. Another problem is that I thought about how much funnier it was watching Jack Black embody a teen girl in Jumanji. Something about him doing the little girl voice with his chubby face. Vaughn doesn’t really change his voice much and knowing that he’s really a killer, makes all of that a bit less funny. Well, aside from the scene with him in the backseat of a car with a guy she was crushing on. My wife and I were laughing so hard on the couch, and I can’t even begin to describe it without spoiling it for you.
There are moments of Freaky Friday, Big, Carrie, Scream, She’s All That, and a few other movies. I’m fine with that. It’s just that every time I got a big laugh from something, I wanted that vibe to continue. For example, the girl as a man, trying to convince her friends of who she really is. You get dialogue like, “Okay, what’s your favorite movie?”
“I tell people ‘Eternal Sunshine’ but it’s really ‘Pitch Perfect 2’!”
That might be my funniest exchange in a movie this year; partly because I think Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a brilliant film and Pitch Perfect 2 is crap, but also, it perfectly shows the logic of a teen that’s smart enough to know she should answer questions to make herself appear smarter to her peers.
Director Christopher Landon (who also co-wrote), worked with Blumhouse on Happy Death Day, and he goes for a John Carpenter vibe which reminded me of my childhood horror film viewing habits. I do wish he would have had Newton dial it back a bit. As the teen girl who’s now become a killer…it’s great to see her give the bullies their comeuppance as she saunters onto campus looking like Olivia Newton-John when she goes all sleazy at the end of Grease. Horror fans will love the gory revenge she gets on her mean teacher (it was nice to see actor Alan Ruck, who played Cameron in Ferris Bueller, doing something other than commercials). It’s just the fact that she’s walking around with this scowl on her face and going for these crazy eyes, which got old quick.
I guess I’m just stricter when it comes to the “body switch” premise. One of my cigar smoking buddies gave me such a hard time for not liking Shazam! that much last year (my review is here: https://fox5sandiego.com/entertainment/at-the-movies-blog/shazam/ )
Overall, my wife and I both felt it had enough laughs and fun to keep us entertained. And I think most people who seek it out will have a blast with it. I just thought it could have been so much better.
2 ½ stars out of 5.