Interview – Director Christopher Landon on Inspiration for FREAKY and Creating the Fiercely Brilliant Kills

With the success of his horror comedies Happy Death Day and Happy Death Day 2U, it’s no surprise that director Christopher Landon’s new film Freaky proves that he is a master of horror comedy. Written by Landon and Michael Kennedy (Bordertown), Freaky tells the story of a teenager named Millie (Kathryn Newton) who is attacked by a deranged serial killer called the Blissfield Butcher (Vince Vaughn) and ends up switching bodies with him. If Millie doesn’t figure out how to switch back to her own body within 24 hours, she will be trapped in the body of the Butcher forever.

Freaky cleverly pays homage to several other horror movies, like A Nightmare on Elm Street, and features sensational performances from Newton and Vaughn. The film also showcases some very unique kills and magnificent practical effects, as well as witty dialogue. This movie is an absolute blast.

Dread Central was thrilled to participate in the virtual press junket for Freaky and have the opportunity to talk with director Christopher Landon about writing the story with Michael Kennedy, casting Kathryn Newton and Vince Vaughn, those insane effects, and a lot more. Read on to find out what we talked about!

Universal Pictures will release Freaky in theaters on Friday, November 13th.

Dread Central: I’ve seen Freaky and I have to say, it is the most fun movie I’ve watched this year.

Christopher Landon: Yes! I want that title [laughs]!

DC: You and Michael Kennedy wrote the story for Freaky together. How did you and Michael come up with this amazing idea for a horror movie?

CL: Michael and I have been friends for some time now. He had actually approached me with the idea as a pitch. He was going to go out and pitch it to a bunch of places, so he wanted to practice it with me. About two sentences into the pitch, I was like, “Oh, this is good! This is a great idea [laughs]!” I love concepts that feel both familiar and fresh at the same time, which I think is a really tough thing to find and this had that. So, I just immediately started pitching ideas back at him and twenty minutes later, we just agreed to write it together.

DC: I really love how there are nods to other horror movies like Scream and A Nightmare on Elm Street, which are two of my favorite horror movies. I’m assuming that was intentional.

CL: A hundred percent. It’s funny, because if you go to my Instagram, when we were shooting the sort of nightmare sequence for the switchover and we’re in this old warehouse, and it’s this very dreamscape, nightmarish thing, and I think my hashtag was A Nightmare on Elm Street or something like that. A lot of what I do is very referential, and I’m always sort of tipping my hat and paying homage to filmmakers and other films that inspired me. That’s the fun of this kind of movie is that you intentionally unpack a lot of tropes, and I think that’s why the movies feel poppy and fun.

DC: There are some brilliant kills in this movie. I actually applauded during the scene with the wine bottle and I also really love the chain saw scene! Can you talk a little bit about the crazy effects in Freaky?

CL: One of the things Michael and I initially agreed on was that we were definitely going to go for a hard R, like a really gory movie. We felt like body swap movies tend to be really soft and cute, and so we wanted this to just be the opposite because we thought it would help push the contrast of the two elements. I love coming up with crazy, gory stuff and I hadn’t really been able to do it since I did Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse several years back, so it was great to dive back into that stuff. I can walk into a room and figure out how to kill you really quickly [laughs] and in some really bizarre ways, so that for me is a lot of fun and come strangely naturally. We just had a blast. Some of them were really complicated and really tough to pull off, especially for our budget level and our schedule, but I really wanted the kills to be memorable.

Christopher Landon and Kathryn Newton behind the scenes of Freaky.
(Photo credit: Brian Douglas/Universal Pictures)

DC: I talked to Kathryn Newton the other day and her and Vince Vaughn are just so amazing, and when they switch bodies, they’re so believable. How did you know that you wanted them to play the roles of Millie and the Butcher?

CL: They were my first choice. Vince is a very physically imposing guy. He’s 6’ 4”and he’s intense. If you’ve seen some of the movies he’s done lately, he really brings that intensity to them, but he’s also incredibly charming and he’s really funny. He’s iconically funny, but he’s a real actor. He really invests in these characters. I couldn’t think of anybody else who checks off all those boxes, I mean that’s a tall order. And Kathryn is incredibly gifted, she’s a naturally gifted actor.

She’s really put in the work. I’ve been following her career ever since I worked with her on Paranormal Activity 4 and she’s blossomed into such an unbelievable talent. I knew that she would bring so much empathy to Millie, but also, I knew that she had a killer in her. She has an intensity as well. She’s a very competitive person; she’s a pro golfer, which people don’t necessarily know about her. So, I knew that could straddle both of those roles with some ease. I also just try to work with people that I really admire and respect, and also know are good people. I had spent a lot of time with Vince before we agreed to do this, and I just really clicked with him.

DC: I’m excited for this movie to come out. I know it’s coming out on Friday the 13th and I just had such a blast with it. I really needed it.

CL: I think it’s the right time. I think everyone is ready for a good time [laughs].

DC: Can you tell me what you’re working on next?

CL: I’ve got a movie that I’m hopefully getting closer to making that’s not a horror film, but it has a connection to horror. I’m writing the new Paranormal Activity movie; we’re rebooting that franchise. I’m super excited about the director, but I can’t say who it is because they won’t let me [laughs]. He’s a get. He’s awesome! I think people are going to be really surprised by where we’re taking this thing.



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