The body-swap comedy gets a genre and gender twist with Freaky, the latest snarky scarefest from Happy Death Day writer-director Christopher Landon. Kathryn Newton (Big Little Lies) stars as Millie, an awkward teen who, after being stabbed with a cursed dagger, wakes up in the body of the Blissfield Butcher, a serial killer (Vince Vaughn). Mean girls and Heathers have nothing on the Butcher, who plans to make mincemeat of Millie’s high school friends and foes.
Misha Osherovich co-stars as Millie’s proverbial gay bestie Josh. Shooting all the horror-action kept the theater-trained performer on their toes, particularly in fight scenes with 6’5″ scene partner Vaughn. “I’m a very small human,” jokes the D.C. native. “So there’s a point when I had to get a running start to monkey up on top of him and hang onto his neck. And I’m literally looking down like, ‘This is tall!'”
In the film, Newton’s Millie experiences her own epiphany while occupying the Butcher’s towering frame, “finding herself and her strength and her identity in a body that’s not hers,” Osherovich points out. Millie’s sincere awakening underlines Freaky‘s otherwise campy, self-aware sensibility, which includes jokes poking fun at the teen-movie stereotype of the gay best friend. Although, Osherovich, who identifies as non-binary, insists Josh is much more than that.
“Josh is an openly, proudly, flamboyantly gay queer character, and I think that’s obviously just fucking awesome to be seeing that on screen,” says Osherovich. “And for Josh to be a character that drives the story forward — I think queer representation needs and wants that right now.” Josh gets a chance to represent himself in a pivotal scene where he winds up alone with cute jock Phil (Magnus Diehl) who won’t take no for an answer.
“That scene actually took on many different evolutions,” says Osherovich. “And that’s something that Chris Landon, the director, Michael Kennedy, our co-writer, and I talked about from the get. As soon as I booked the role, that scene was a topic of discussion, because it wasn’t always the way that you saw it in the film. There were several different versions of that scene, some of which painted Josh in a better light or a worse light. I’ll leave your imagination to kind of figure out what that means.”
But before helping to shape Josh’s trajectory in the movie, and before they even had the role, Osherovich told Landon, “‘If I book this thing, I’m going to make this guy human. He’s not going to be a caricature. He’s not going to be the gay best friend. That’s just my two cents. Take it or leave it.’ Clearly, he took it.”
Osherovich describes the scene as “a moment where Josh has to decide, is [he] going to be the true friend that gets the shit done, that really is there for his friend that’s in dire circumstances? Or is he going to maybe go down a bit more of a self-serving path? And between that conversation, and the very real conversation about what consent means, and what it means to be a burgeoning queer teen, and to have kind of an iffy situation with a potentially questioning other teen, I think that scene brought to light the best part of Josh. It brought to light the fact that Josh is really there for his friend. He’s focused on saving his friend from this crazy situation. And at the end of the day, consent matters. So fuck off.”
Ultimately, the movie gives all of its teen characters a chance to show their true colors. “It’s a body swap film, but I think it does this magical thing,” Osherovich says. “Josh being a kind of out and proud queer character, Nyla, Celeste O’Connor’s character, being a proudly Black and unapologetically woke character, Millie finding her strength in the Butcher’s body — [it’s] a real testament to how even the campiest of horror can speak to real issues.”
Freaky is releasing on Friday the 13th in theaters, video on-demand, and digital.
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André Hereford covers arts and entertainment for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @here4andre.
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