Body swap stories are almost exclusively played for laughs. The idea of one person having to live out life as another is certainly a natural setup for characters to be confused, make mistakes, and do other things that could lead to laughs. But when you think about it, the idea of being stuck in another person's body is a terrifying concept. It's a bit shocking that there aren't a lot more body swap horror movies like Freaky.
Freaky doesn't forgo the laughs entirely, but it is a body-swap horror-comedy where Vince Vaughn and Kathryn Newton swap bodies. The biggest issue being that Vaughn's character is a serial killer. While certainly Freaky is meant to be somewhat over the top, Vince Vaughn recently told our own ReelBlend podcast that there's a magic trick the movie uses to get the audience to buy in. According to Vaughn...
I think Chris [Landon] is so talented at blending comedy and horror. It's a difficult thing to do. So we were putting so many things on its ear and having so much fun. But what I loved the most was that there's an emotional believability that goes throughout [the movie]. … I think part of what helps us buy the body swap -- and obviously Kathryn’s performance tremendously so as Millie -- is that I think we emotionally buy those feelings and connections. And that's part of the magic trick of buying the situation. It’s the ability for all of us, like I said, to connect to those very vulnerable moments, when you're over your head and out of water, you're feeling, you know, picked on or isolated. And that's really what carries the day, I think, in a lot of this.
No matter what story you're telling, the audience has to be able to buy into the situation. Most movies tell stories that we would never see in reality, but if you can get an audience invested in the characters, then you can usually take your story to even more unbelievable places, and the viewer will follow. Chris Landon, the writer/director of Freaky, has some experience doing that with the Happy Death Day films, and it seems that Freaky is another success in that regard.
The trick, as far as it is one, seems to be the idea of using simple concepts, emotional and vulnerable moments that we all feel from time to time, and to ground the story there. This gives people a place of understanding to hold on to when the rest of the movie, involving body swapping and serial killers, might take the story to places people don't understand. The trick itself isn't necessarily anything most filmmakers don't understand. However, knowing what to do, and actually making it all work are two very different things. Christopher Landon appears to have a very solid grasp on how to make it work.
Freaky opens in theaters Friday.