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The Real Reason Freaky Is Rated R

Don't be fooled by the comedy-edge of the latest Blumhouse film, Freaky. The body-swap movie from Happy Death Day helmer Christopher Landon is as much a twist on Freaky Friday as Friday the 13th

Since its trailer dropped, the American horror-comedy has garnered hype from audiences of all ages, due in part to its clever mixing of genres and it's killer leads: comedy mainstay Vince Vaughn and rising star Kathryn Newton, known for roles in Detective Pickachu and Blockers — one of 2018's best movies. Freaky stars Newton as the unpopular and shy 17-year-old Blissfield high schooler Millie Kessler, whose unexpected run-in with the town's local killer — Vaughn's The Butcher — goes from near-deadly to super-weird. That's because the ancient knife Vaughn's serial murderer uses to stab his latest target swaps them into each other's bodies. 

Fans of Landon and his Happy Death Day franchise, as well as those who've just generally seen the marketing art, can probably guess that things get more than a little wild and bloody for Freaky's stars. But its high school setting, coupled with a younger lead and her group of besties, played by Celeste O'Connor and Misha Osherovich, might have some believing this is a teen-friendly flick. Young adults are certainly welcome, but Freaky's R-rating — and director Landon — have something to say about that. 

In an interview with Collider, the director revealed why he worked so hard to ensure his latest film earned its R-rating for the movie's "strong bloody violence, sexual content and language throughout" (via Bloody Disgusting). "This movie required it because, I think conceptually, if you're going to put a serial killer in a shy, co-dependent, wallflower-y girl's body, then you need to pay that off," he explained. "And I think that doing something that was PG-13 and bloodless, I just think you would lose the impact of it." 

Christopher Landon says that Freaky wouldn't have creatively worked if it wasn't R-rated

Unlike Happy Death Day, which Landon noted didn't feature a lot of imagery around its main character Bree's death, Freaky is very much about the violent actions of its serial killing body jumper, even if it shares a universe with his previous films and has a seemingly innocent and young female lead. "I've described this movie to people as sort of being like the goriest Disney movie never made because body swap movies are cute. They're always cute. It's cute as a concept. And so, I wanted this to sort of have this big bucket of blood dumped on it," Landon told Collider

The Freaky helmer says that pushing for an R-rating doesn't mean he doesn't respect the PG-13 label, though. In fact, Landon underscored that movies shouldn't be forced into an R-rating when neither its tone nor content really call for it. [T]here are certain movies that I think they should be PG-13! Why would you need to make Tremors R? Why would you need to make Poltergeist R? Gremlins R?" he explained. "There's just certain movies that make sense in that space, and then there are other movies that just don't. Nobody wants to see a PG-13 Evil Dead." 

One of those movies was Happy Death Day and its sequel Happy Death Day 2, which Landon described as "a no-brainer" to make it PG-13. Landon then went on to reiterate that, in contrast, Freaky was "one of those movies that just felt like we would be betraying the concept of the movie" if he and the creative team hadn't conceptualized it as an R-rated film. 

Christopher Landon said Blumhouse producer Jason Blum likely helped secure the film's R-rating

While the Happy Death Day creator says the R-rating always made sense for him, he did note that it probably wasn't so simple a decision for Universal Pictures, who may have weighed potential box office losses through the rating's age-restrictions. 

Landon relayed to Collider that just a day after he and co-writer Michael Kennedy turned their script over to Blum, he gave them the green light to move forward, so long as they stayed within a certain budget. If that sounds freaky to you, you're not alone. Landon said the process was "really fast," but a generally "seamless" process thanks to Blum. "I think that Jason is an excellent buffer and a good gatekeeper, so he may have known a lot more than I did," the Freaky director said. 

That "more" likely involved Blum carrying out some behind-the-scenes negotiations, which could have included getting the film's R-rating approved. "I feel like what I don't know were probably the PG-13 versus R conversations that may have been happening in the background," Landon said. "That was a deal-breaker for me. So I was like, 'We're making an R-rated movie. This movie's going to be gory.' And no one said anything to me about it, but I feel like, at some point, sometime, they must have broached the subject with [Blum]." 

Luckily, Universal Pictures got on board, and now fans will get to see the bloody good time Freaky, which is currently in theaters, has in store.