You might not expect a horror film where Vince Vaughn plays a serial killer known as the Blissfield Butcher to make relevant social commentary on bullying. But because Christopher Landon’s Freaky is also a body-swap film that switches the killer with a teenager girl (Kathryn Newton), the script is able to comment numerous times on the archaic practice of bullying, and its prevalence in contemporary high school.
For his part, Vince Vaughn is thrilled that Freaky is tackling his issue. The Old School and Dodgeball star stopped by our ReelBlend podcast to break down his role in Freaky, and opened up about the themes that he saw in the project, and why they were important to him. Vaughn told us:
I think it's a fertile ground for all of us as human beings. There's a stage where you're going through changes, you're not confident, public humiliation is a big deal, and your universe is so small, there's no way to escape it because this is your ecosystem. I think, in the script, it does a good job of setting Millie (Kathryn Newton) up with both a complicated home life, she's got a good quality of friends, but even the small thing of the guy (barking) at her in the hallway... to him, it's just a moment in his day. But for her, it's like, ‘You're totally making me feel weak and it's a horrible feeling.’ And that's what is interesting in the film. I think that even though it's the Butcher and it’s dark, it's a weirdness that -- you're almost like, with a teacher who was unkind, we've all had those moments. So it sort of, in an odd way, addresses it. It's almost empowering, in a dark and kind of surprising way.
Before the body swap takes place, Kathryn Newton plays Millie as a bookish, quiet and reserved teenager who is the school mascot because it allows her to hide in the costume of a massive beaver. But once the Butcher takes over her body, Freaky gives Millie the strength to push back against the people who are doing her wrong. Vince Vaughn didn’t say that he was bullied growing up, but he spoke on the topic and really connected with the ways that bullying can make one feel like less than the norm. Vaughn said:
There's nothing worse than bullying, and hurting someone's spirit. It's a terrible way to try to have a moment of feeling safe, by really putting someone down and hurting them that way. And I wonder how much, when you're younger, people are really aware of the trauma that they're causing, or the hurt. Of course, kids on the other side of it don't share with their parents, because they don't want to be embarrassed or let them down. You know, there's just not a lot of, at those times, good communication understanding of it. And then as you get older, you realize, ‘Well, there are bullies in a lot of pain, probably.’ You wouldn't think that, but they're learning it somewhere, or they just haven't been taught that there are consequences, and one shouldn't do that.
You can see Freaky now, as the body-swapping horror comedy is playing in select theaters.