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Body-Swapping Horror Freaky Is Heartfelt, Queer, & Fun As Hell

Body-Swapping Horror 'Freaky' Is Heartfelt, Queer, & Fun As Hell

Body-Swapping Horror 'Freaky' Is Heartfelt, Queer, & Fun As Hell

PRIDE chats with the cast and creator of the hilarious new Blumhouse film that is giving horror a much-needed, modern spin! 

byraffy

Just in time for Friday the 13th, Universal and Blumhouse's latest title Freaky is serving us the hilarious, inclusive, and surprisingly heartfelt teen horror-comedy we didn't even know we needed! 

A perfect gateway film for people who aren't necessarily too familiar with slashers/horror, Freaky tells the story of what happens when a shy, soft-spoken high school girl named Millie (Kathryn Newton) swaps bodies (via a cursed dagger) with a slippery serial killer dubbed the Blissfield Butcher (Vince Vaughn). With the help of her two friends Nyla (Celeste O'Connor) and Josh (an out, gay character played by Misha Osherovich), Millie has to reverse the curse and get back into her body before the Butcher has his way with everyone in town. Instead of leaning into the old, sometimes offensive tropes associated with movies that involve gender- and body-swapping, Freaky is a refreshing take on an old genre and there's a surprising amount of care and attention taken with Vince's Vaughn's performance as a teenage girl. Freaky is also diverse and inclusive AF, and we absolutely love to see it! 

PRIDE got to chat with the cast, including Kathryn Newton, Celeste O'Connor, and Misha Osherovich, as well as out writer and director Christopher Landon, about the way Freaky reinvigorates the slasher genre, the film's progressive humor, working with comedy legend Vince Vaughn, and more! 

PRIDE: Can you take us behind the genesis of Freaky? What inspired the creation of the film and what drew you to your characters?

Chris Landon: The idea actually came from my writing partner, Michael Kennedy. We've been friends for some time, but he approached me with the idea not to do it together, but it was like a practice pitch. He just wanted to practice it with another writer. And I immediately fell in love with the idea and I started pitching stuff back to him and we quickly agreed that we needed to try and write it together.

Kathryn Newton: I'm a really big fan of Chris Landon and I had the honor of working with him on Paranormal Activity 4. He wrote that film and Jason Blum, who produced Freaky also produced Paranormal Activity. And I really wanted to work with them again because they're the best. And Chris Landon is the king of horror and he killed it on Happy Death Day, mixing horror and comedy. So I knew the premise, Freaky Friday the 13th, was genius. And then when I read the script, it just blew my mind because I had never read anything like it before. I've seen freaky Friday and I've seen The Hot Chick and I've seen Friday the 13th and I love those movies, but Freaky took those ideas and those stereotypes that you've seen and just destroyed them. So I desperately wanted to be in the movie, and I think I just really wanted to transform into that serial killer and be that badass that I know is in me. I just didn't really believe it was until Chris Landon told me that he thought I could do it.

Misha Osherovich: I read the script and I was like, 'Well, this is wild.' It reads as crazy as what you saw. Chris Landon really knows how to write some crazy, crazy depths. But I read it and I was like, this is weird, but it feels just weird enough to work. Like really work. So, auditioning through it, Josh has obviously a pretty outlandish character and it's one of those where there's an opportunity to either make him a human and do away with the caricature of it all, especially from being a queer character or you can really go to either the tropey gay best friend, not so interesting route. And even in auditioning for Chris, one of my last tests with him over Zoom, Chris asked me even before I had the role, he's like, 'Do you have any last comments, questions, anything after all these scenes that we've done, any concerns about the role?' I'm like, 'No, not so much concerned, just like Chris, if you give me this role, I'm going to make this kid a human. I'm not interested in playing another tropey gay best friend.' And he's like, okay, noted. And we hung up and I sincerely hope that he took that well, and I guess he did! 

Celeste O'Connor: I got the script and I started reading it and I was like, 'Oh, my God. This is kind of insane.' I just was like, 'I feel like I have to be a part of this because I've never read something like this before.' I was just having such a good time going through the script, laughing, and getting scared, and being shocked. I was like, 'Okay, I can tell this is going to be something that is exciting and unique and different.' I loved Nyla's character also because she was written as a Black girl, but that was just one part of her identity. And then the story moves on kind of in the same way that Misha's character is written as a gay character, but it's not necessarily a coming-out story or that our characters' identities as being Black or gay are not central parts to the story, which I thought was really refreshing, because Chris definitely intentionally wanted a Black girl to be involved in this story, which I appreciated, but then it was not a caricature of a Black girl or a stereotype. I read that and I was like, 'Oh wow, okay. I love this.'

PRIDE: The film is obviously a horror-comedy, but it has a lot of heart and it flips tropes on their head and smashes stereotypes. Through the body-swapping Millie inadvertently becomes empowered and there are moments where you see her, especially after it happens, she's really more confident than she used to be. Josh's queerness is also affirmed throughout the whole movie, but he's never been a caricature or a stereotype. What was it like creating and being a part of a project like that?

Kathryn Newton: I think it's really important for movies to be a reflection of the times that we're in. That's the power of a movie and the power of a movie to tell the story with heart in the most bonkers way, most outrageous way, which is what we do in Freaky. At the heart of it, Millie's just a girl who doesn't believe in herself and she's bullied. She doesn't have that many friends, but she's got a couple of good ones. And I was a lot like that in high school. I was totally bullied for being who I was or not even knowing who I was, but I still don't fit in. I don't know that I'm ever going to fit in and that's okay. And I think that's your power. When you're young, you don't know it, but the things that you're bullied for are what make you special, so never stopped shining that light because it's going to hold you up in the end. This movie is about a girl who doesn't realize her power and it literally takes becoming a serial killer to see it, but at the end of the day was always in her. She's not a serial killer, but she's just a girl trying to figure it out, just like me.

Chris Landon: Part of what I strive to do as a filmmaker and as a storyteller is to infuse the genre with things that I think are atypical. And I think when you look at the sort of body of horror and horror comedies, it's rare that these films are ever emotional or that they get into personal kind of stories, so I always like to really go there because I don't really see the point if you're not following somebody emotional journey. Going back to the slashers that I grew up with, there were no out, gay characters who were the leads in these movies. And so for Michael and I, Joshua was an opportunity to sort of put out a character into the horror world that is confident. He's not struggling with his sexuality. He's not coming out to anybody. He is who he is. He's unapologetically gay and empowered by that. And I think a lot of what the movie deals with, on one hand, it's dealing with bullying, and that's also something that Michael and I, it was very personal for us because as gay kids growing up in high school we both got bullied. And so Millie is sort of, I think an extension of that aspect of our own experiences. And then I think Joshua is sort of the person that we wish we could have been in high school. It was kind of nice to be able to put these different things in this kind of a movie, because just don't think it's common. I don't think you see that a lot.

Misha Osherovich: It was pretty amazing to be a part of a project that like. Look, I'm an activist human, I work a lot with body positivity and eating disorder awareness, and mental health. But this is a new avenue. This is a funny, accessible, meant for the public, light-hearted film with murder, but it tackled some real issues. There's that infamous line 'You're black, I'm gay, we're so dead,' and that's was commenting on the trope of how Celeste's character and my character are usually treated in these kinds of films. It was pretty amazing to be a part of a project that commented on those big social issues in such an accessible and funny way.

PRIDE: And speaking of the friendship dynamic, Millie, Nyla, and Josh are the queer friend squad I wish I had when I was in high school. Can you talk about your guys' chemistry and what it was like building that and what was like working with all three of you because I wish I was part of a squad too!

Kathryn Newton: Well, Celeste really was the voice of reason. Nyla is the voice of reason in the film. And we needed that grounding force to keep the movie moving. She's the driving force of that side of the movie and Misha just killed it as Josh. He's iconic. And he has the most iconic lines in the movie and he brings this energy to the scenes that you need. One of my favorite parts of the film is just both of them together, the chemistry that we all had. When we first started doing rehearsals and stuff, I brought both of them to go see Post Malone and we just had fun as friends. I think that when you can be friends off set, when you love each other, you can feel that in the movie. You can feel that on screen. So it was really important to Chris as well that we were just all friends and got to know each other so that on the day we could risk it all and fall and fail and catch each other.

Misha Osherovich: Honestly we also have to put into the equation, Vince Vaughn, right? In rehearsal, that was very much Vince, Kathryn, Celeste, and me, all working together to make this trio of three friends because at a certain point, us four people play three friends. So, it was interesting not only to watch Vince and Kathryn learn about each other and create those mannerisms and really try to become each other in a more organic way and not just giving a play at it. But most of our scenes are with Vince. First day of shooting was shooting with Vince Vaughn, Celeste, and myself, we didn't get to shoot with Kathryn until about a month in. It was this great process of building a friendship, not based on the actor, but based on the relationship that we built, made in rehearsals, and going out to dinner and getting to know each other. And Vince Vaughn is also such an improviser, so just being ready to be surprised by whatever wacky 17-year-old girl thing he was going to whip out and we just had to roll along with it. And that's mostly the takes that we would use, when Vince Vaughn would outright surprise Celeste and I.

Celeste O'Connor: I think that definitely was Chris's really amazing directing because I think from the very beginning he really took the time to help us get to know each other and spend time together. We went to a pumpkin patch and went to dinner and did a lot of stuff before we even started shooting. So, I think that when we got to those more heartfelt moments in the script and we had to film them, it really was coming from a genuine place because we all love each other and had actually gotten the time to become friends and get to know each other. So, I think that's really how it worked for us.

PRIDE: The movie is obviously filled with a bunch of humor, but it was smart, progressive humor that doesn't punch down on anyone and it doesn't actually play into stereotypes. So did you enjoy that aspect of the film? Getting to create and be a part of something that's progressive and funny, but not offensive?

Kathryn Newton: It's a super progressive film because it's just being honest. It's calling out stereotypes and tropes that we've all seen before and also come to love. As a horror fan, I love the final girl. I want to see that girl get murdered because it's fun, but at the same time, it's really cool that Freaky flips all of that, and you don't see that a lot. So that was one of my favorite parts about Freaky is how fresh it is. You've never seen that before. It's like, finally we're saying the things that we are all saying anyway, and we're making fun of it where it's very self-aware in how it calls out the stereotype. And I'm really grateful that it does in such a funny way.

Celeste O'Connor: I think that that is totally Chris and our other writer, Michael Kennedy. Kudos to them because their writing of the jokes and the kind of clever moments in there really, really was just their genius and also their like own queer sensibilities that were shining through, which I think is really, really important and beautiful. It also was just really, really amazing to get to work with Vince Vaughn as well, because he was very open and collaborative with everybody. So, there would be moments where he would be like, 'Oh, what? A teenage girl actually saved us?' Because there were some things that were improvised and he would kind of...we would bounce ideas off of each other and he would even ask us for stuff. So, I think it was really refreshing to see somebody who's so highly respected coming onto the set and coming into this space with a collaborative mindset and also wanting to hear our ideas. So in that way, we definitely learned from each other. I think that's why it ended up working because it was such a collaborative process, which was really cool.

Chris Landon: The advantage that I think that the movie has is that it's written by two hardcore genre fans. Michael is a deeply obsessed horror fan. And that's the reason we became friends. It's our love of horror. And so we kind of step into this world knowing all the tropes. And all those sort of preconceived ideas about slasher films, but also about teen comedies as well, because we love those too. And that's really how we approached writing the movie. How can we lean into some of these tropes, but also how can we invert them? That's really what the movie is designed to do. It's designed to take these things that we know. What happens when Jason Vorhees turns into a teenage girl? There's so many fun opportunities to play with that concept here. But I think in execution, it worked better because we just know those things all too well.

PRIDE: The Butcher may be dealt with by the end of the film, but I would love to see Millie, Nyla, and Josh all come back in some capacity and maybe deal with some other villain or something. Do you have any hopes for the futures of these characters and if you could, would, you want to reunite with everyone and do something else again in the future? Maybe some kind of sequel?

Kathryn Newton: I would love to reunite with anybody on this movie on any project because it was a joy to work with them! I'd love to see Millie maybe incorporate some of The Butcher's wardrobe into her own personal style, but if she wants to remain a grandma, that's okay. That's what I am. And I think it's cool.

Misha Osherovich: I have a lot of hope. First of all, just working with these filmmakers again, I've already talked to Michael Kennedy and Chris about just working with them in the future. And that's just such a special relationship for me, but this film, it's Chris Landon! We've seen Happy Death Day 2U. We know what this man is capable of when it comes to a sequel, so, of course I have hope.

Celeste O'Connor: I would absolutely be down and open to that. I think that any chance that I get to work with, especially Misha and Kathryn again, I would take that in a heartbeat, and Chris as well. I would definitely take that in a heartbeat because we work well together, we have so much fun together, and they're still some of my closest friends even now. That would be super fun for me.

Chris Landon: Look, you can never rule out a sequel or what's going to happen. I, as sort of a general rule, I don't like to count my chickens before movies ever come out. And I can say with certainty that I would not make another movie unless it's the right idea. Unless there's more of the story to tell, I will not make a sequel for the sake of making a sequel.

Freaky is out now!

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Raffy Ermac

Digital Director, Out.com

Raffy is a Los Angeles-based writer, editor, video creator, critic, and digital director of Out Magazine. The former editor-in-chief of PRIDE, he is also a die-hard Rihanna and Sailor Moon stan who loves to write about all things pop culture, entertainment, and identities. Follow him on Instagram (@raffyermac) and Twitter (@byraffy), and subscribe to his YouTube channel

Raffy is a Los Angeles-based writer, editor, video creator, critic, and digital director of Out Magazine. The former editor-in-chief of PRIDE, he is also a die-hard Rihanna and Sailor Moon stan who loves to write about all things pop culture, entertainment, and identities. Follow him on Instagram (@raffyermac) and Twitter (@byraffy), and subscribe to his YouTube channel