Freaky Co-Writers Christopher Landon and Michael Kennedy tell of the slasher comedy’s genesis. Freaky is a dark thriller that’s as scary as it is funny.

The idea for Freaky came to writer/director Christopher Landon through his writing partner on the film, Michael Kennedy.

Freaky - Kathryn Newton
Freaky – Kathryn Newton as The Butcher in Millie Kessler’s body ©2020 Universal Pictures

Freaky Co-Writers, Michael inspired by Christopher

Interestingly, Michael Kennedy was watching one of Christopher’s films when he thought of the idea! “I was watching Happy Death Day and thinking, ‘How do I do this?’” Michael says. “I wanted to think of a clever premise to make another mash-up similar to that movie, and one of the first things I thought of was the body swap.”

After the Freaky Co-Writers came up with the premise, Michael told Christopher about the idea over lunch. Christopher tells, “Michael is a dear friend of mine and we’re both big horror geeks. He pitched the movie. I got so excited by the idea that I sort of just pushed my way into the process. I said, ‘We have to do this together!’ We were both riffing off each other’s ideas and it was so evident that it was something that we wanted to do together.”

Christopher goes on to explain how: “We spent the next three weeks reworking my initial concept and outlining the script. Then wrote the script in the month following that.”

Fresh mixture

“I think broad audiences are only recently starting to come around to the blending of horror with comedy,” Christopher says.

He goes on to site examples, “Movies in the past like Gremlins, Tremors and Evil Dead II really blazed a path for movies like this. You can have your cake and eat it, too. You get to be scared and thrilled but also get to laugh, and those are my two favorite things.”

Freaky - Celeste O'Connor, Vince Vaughn and Misha Osherovich
Freaky – Nyla Chones (Celeste O’Connor), Millie Kessler in The Butcher’s body (Vince Vaughn) and Josh Detmer (Misha Osherovich) ©2020 Universal Pictures

Avoiding body-swap films

Although he has already been influenced Christopher tells how he does not want to remind himself of the details. “At time I’m writing something that exists in a similar world, I try not to pollute my process with other people’s work.”

“One of the movies that I went back to for this film was Jennifer’s Body. A woefully underrated movie and I think is only now beginning to get its due. I explored how that character was played in that particular space. Having a female character in high school who’s on a rampage.”

Michael adds: “I, like Chris, avoided watching body-swap movies for reference when we were writing. We really wanted Freaky to stand on its own. I recalled movies using ancient artifacts or magic, so in a way we mashed up even that aspect of the movie when figuring out the hows and whys and rules of our swap.”

Tricky body swap

The body swap turned out to be tricky to hammer out for the Freaky Co-Writers. “The only struggle that we had was figuring out the way in which the body swap would happen and how much information we wanted to give about it,” Michael says.

“We didn’t want to be too lean with information. At the same time, didn’t want to give too much information to the point where the movie and the device are no longer scary. So, it was really about finding that balance.”

Freaky - Kathryn Newton and Vince Vaughn
Freaky – Millie Kessler (Kathryn Newton) and The Butcher (Vince Vaughn) in Freaky, co-written and directed by Christopher Landon.


“When I made Happy Death Day, I got a fair amount of criticism for not making that an R-rated movie. For Freaky, Michael and I agreed that we wanted this to be a rated R, violent and gory film. We thought it was an interesting element and something you wouldn’t typically see in a body-swap movie.”

It was then the comedy side kicked in: ”We thought, ‘How can we make these kills still feel over-the-top and cartoony?’ It’s never like you’re watching it and thinking ‘Oh my god, that’s horrible and so gruesome.’ More often than not, you’re laughing at the kills because they’re just so ridiculous.”

Michael acknowledges Christopher for how the outlandish deaths occur: “Chris called me and said, ‘I think I want to go really high concept with the kills. He had a bunch of the deaths in his head already. He was like, ‘I’m thinking we break a tennis racket and shove it in this guy’s head, and I think maybe one of the girls should get killed with a toilet seat and let’s shove a wine bottle down that one’s throat.’ And I said, ‘Oh, we’re really going for it.’ And he said, ‘Yes, let’s literally eviscerate these people. Let’s have fun with it.’”

Christopher sums up: “Whenever I get to make a movie, it always feels like I’ve won the lottery. I’m proud it’s a genuinely entertaining and fun ride… Just because we’re making something fun doesn’t mean it can’t have some layers and depth to it.”

Freaky - Vince Vaughn and Kathryn Newton
Freaky – The Butcher (Vince Vaughn) and Millie Kessler (Kathryn Newton) ©2020 Universal Pictures

Current Freaky release dates, maybe in theatres??

  • USA & Canada: Friday November 13th, 2020
  • Australia: December 3rd, 2020
  • UK: December 4th, 2020

Colin Davies

The editor of Film Review Online