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‘Freaky’ at NYCC: John Hughes ’80s movies hold the secret to making Vince Vaughn scary

By Benjamin Bullard
Vince Vaughn in horror comedy movie Freaky

Body swap horror in a high school setting, with serial killer Vince Vaughn trading places with a seemingly innocent teenage girl — it’s got all the makings of horror and hilarity in equal doses. Coming from the same mind behind Happy Death Day, Blumhouse’s Freaky is poised to make horror fans laugh in spite of themselves — even while they’re squinting and squirming from the fear factor.

Director and co-writer (with Michael Kennedy) Christopher Landon shared his trick for mixing laughter and especially the scares at New York Comic Con, saying he taps the spirit of old-school movies like The Breakfast Club and other John Hughes classics to make fans care about the characters … before, that is, he starts killing them off.

“We talked a lot about John Hughes, and how non-judgmental he was with these young characters, and really let them have these interior lives,” he said, explaining his secret from the start of the casting process to keep horror-jaded fans invested in genuine scares.

Vaughn plays the Blissfield Butcher in Freaky, as a lifelong serial killer who’s always gotten away with it — until a curse swaps his identity with that of Millie (Kathryn Newton), a high school student who finds some hellishly creative ways to adapt to having her soul trapped inside the Butcher’s body. The movie’s high school setting spawned all kinds of creative ways to get bloody, with shop class serving up an especially mind-splitting way to dispose of the living.

Thank Landon for the inventive kills. “I’ve always had a weird unsettling knack for thinking up really gruesome, bizarre ways to kill people,” he jokingly confessed to Vaughn, Newton, and co-stars Celeste O’Connor Misha Osherovich — all of whom sat in for the movie’s NYCC panel webcast. “I also sort of have this baked-in gallows humor, because life is absurd — and death is even more absurd.”

Nothing, though, may be more absurd than Vaughn’s biggest childhood horror movie memory, which sent him literally running through the house in panic during Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead. “I dared myself to watch it in my house, by myself, when my parents weren’t home, and I turned off all the lights in the basement,” he recalled. “I only lasted about 30 minutes. I was terrified. I went to run to turn on the light, and I ran into a pole that was in my basement and I fell down … and then your mind starts playing tricks on you.”

The panel also shared a fun talk about which real-life characters the cast would want to swap bodies with, and while that didn’t yield much (Landon said Joan of Arc, “for an hour”) — it did end up giving Vaughn an idea that piqued Landon’s movie-making interest. All you've gotta do, he said, is add time travel, diving back through history to rope in long-dead characters from the past. “Boom!” said Landon. “That’s the sequel idea!”

Produced by Blumhouse, Freaky is set for a Nov. 13 release date — which just happens to be Friday the 13th.

Click here for SYFY WIRE's full coverage of New York Comic Con Metaverse 2020.