SWAP CHOP
SFX|December 2020
HAPPY DEATH DAY DIRECTOR CHRIS LANDON RETURNS WITH POST-SLASHER COMEDY-HORROR FREAKY, A FREAKY FRIDAY MEETS FRIDAY THE 13TH MEETS MEAN GIRLS FREAKSHOW YOU CAN’T LOOK AWAY FROM
JAMIE TABBERER

GO FUCK YOURSELF!” You’ll have to trust us on this one: director extraordinaire Christopher Landon is speaking purely hypothetically… and with a riotous laugh. His strong reaction is understandable: SFX has just asked what his message would be to horror genre cynics who jump to conclusions about his new film Freaky and dismiss it as “just another slasher movie”. Because let’s face it, there have been rather a few since John Carpenter basically invented the subgenre with 1978’s Halloween.

“I’d say, that’s the whole point of this movie: we’re expecting you to have seen slasher movies,” he elaborates, before citing the film’s crucial sci-fi twist: “We’re expecting you to have seen body-swap movies [too]. But what you haven’t seen – yet – is a body-swap movie that collides with a slasher. But I stand by my original answer: go fuck yourselves!”

Landon sums up Freaky’s plot as “about a young, shy high school girl [Millie] who swaps bodies with a serial killer,” combining the tropes of films as disparate as Scream, Mean Girls, and the recent Jumanji films in one simple premise. Or, as co-writer Michael Kennedy more succinctly put it in his initial pitch to Landon, “‘Freaky Friday meets Friday The 13th’. My ears perked up!”

“This is the first time I’ve ever written a movie with another writer,” Landon says, admitting such collaboration was “something I’ve always feared because I’m a bit of a control freak.”

His control freakery has served him well in the past: although best known as the director of the Happy Death Day movies, Landon has worked prolifically as a writer. One of his earliest hits was 2007’s Rear Window-inspired Disturbia, a hidden gem in Shia LaBeouf’s filmography; he went on to write four Paranormal Activity films.

But together, Landon and Kennedy found their groove, and Killer Body (as Freaky was initially titled) quickly took shape. “Our sense of humor is very much aligned,” says Landon of his writing partner. “We’d assign each other chunks of 10 pages, write them separately, and email them and rewrite each other. Then we’d get together and rewrite it all again. It was a three-tiered process – but it worked really well for us.”

LANDON ON HIS FEET

The son of late actor Michael Landon (Bonanza, Little House On The Prairie and Highway To Heaven), Landon denies watching other horror movies for inspiration. “Although I can’t speak for Michael – he watches horror movies day and night. And I would be too, but I don’t get to watch anything anymore, except Elmo!” (He and husband Cody Morris are parents to an infant son, Beau.)

“We talked about movies,” he adds of the preparation process. “But not Freaky Friday – the original or the remake. We didn’t talk about body-swap movies at all! We talked about John Hughes's films and Jennifer’s Body, and they inspired us in different ways.”

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