'Freaky' Makes Its Horror-Comedy Work By Creating Engaging Characters [NYCC]

Freaky, the new horror-comedy from Happy Death Day director Christopher Landon, takes a body premise and throws in a slasher movie angle. I can’t speak for the quality of the film just yet – I still haven’t seen it – but as a far of the Happy Death Day films, I’m incredibly excited to check this thing out. For now, though, I’ll make do with the Freaky NYCC panel, which had writer-director Christopher Landon, the film’s stars, Vince Vaughn, Kathryn Newton, Celeste O’Connor, and Misha Osherovich, talking about what’s in store.

Freaky Friday NYCC 

In Freaky, “High school student Millie Kessler (Kathryn Newton) becomes the newest target of the Blissfield Butcher (Vince Vaughn), an infamous serial killer, during her senior year. When the killer’s magic dagger causes her to swap bodies with him, Kessler discovers she has only a day to reverse the switch or else remain trapped as a middle-aged murderer hunted by the city, while the real killer – in her body – targets her classmates at Homecoming.”

It’s a great premise, and one thing is clear from this NYCC panel – the movie is bound to be fun. In discussing the impetus of the project, director Christopher Landon revealed that co-writer Michael Kennedy brought the idea to him as a practice pitch. Kennedy first said the title was Killer Body, but then described the idea as “Freaky Friday the 13th,” which immediately stopped Landon in his tracks. “It just worked,” the filmmaker said.

The premise requires Vince Vaughn and Kathryn Newton to play characters who swap bodies, and while the NYCC panel tried to get the actors to open up on how they went about playing each other, the most Vaughn and Newton would offer was that they worked on building their own characters and took it from there. A big key to making it work, though, was keeping things “grounded” so that the audience would buy into what was going on.

Beyond that, there was lots of talk about a playful set, with the actors working out their characters in between takes. The panel even showcased some behind-the-scenes footage of the actors working out ideas just before they shot specific scenes. But the real secret to making all of this work, according to Landon, is creating characters you can engage with.

“It’s difficult to scare audiences [these days], but what I always try to go back to is if you build engaging characters, the plot twists, and the jokes, and the scares [are more satisfying],” the filmmaker said.

Freaky opens November 13.

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