man holds knife to woman's throat
Posted on March 9, 2021

Beavers Bite Back: Rape-Revenge, “Good for Her,” and Freaky’s Final Girl

Guest Post

Freaky (2020), directed by Christopher Landon, is a slasher movie with a body-swap twist: a teenage girl, Millie (Kathryn Newton), and a serial killer, the Blissfield Butcher (Vince Vaughn) – through the dubious magic of an ancient Aztec curse – switch bodies and must deal with the unintended consequences. But the movie’s title is more than a nod to Freaky Friday; it’s also an indication of the way it mixes up – or gets freaky with – its genre classification.

Freaky establishes its slasher credentials early on, directly referencing earlier slashers like Halloween (1978) and Scream (1996) during its opening sequence of murders, and it’s obviously familiar with body-swap conventions as well (the cursed Aztec object, for instance). As a body-swap slasher, an unusual combination, some of its elements may not fit comfortably. Dawn Keetley writes, for instance, that “it felt pretty off-putting to be asked to identify with the Butcher’s body rather than Millie’s. One of my persistent pleasures in the slasher film is precisely in the Final Girl’s body. In this film, I’m asked to transfer that identification to Vince Vaughn.” The body-swap element might, then, undermine some of the effects of the slasher. And Freaky is certainly much bloodier than a typical body-swap movie, although it does retain the genre’s emphasis on gaining new perspective and understanding of others.

man looking at camera saying he wants his body back

I had a different reaction than Keetley did, however, largely because I experienced the film not only as a body-swap slasher but also as a rape-revenge film (although it is one without an actual rape) and as part of the newly named “good for her” genre. For me, these elements of the film, rather than taking away from the gendered identification of the slasher, provide a way to identify with a female body/character in multiple ways at once.

First, in keeping with Keetley’s reading of the film via Carol J. Clover’s work, I would argue that it is a version of the rape-revenge film that Clover describes. Clover notes a shift in representations of rape in the 1970s and 1980s “from a more or less justifiable male-centered event to an unjustifiable female-centered one; from the deed of a psychopathic creep to the deed of a ‘normal’ man; from an event construed as an act of sex, in which one or both parties is shown to take some pleasure (if only perverse), to an act of violent humiliation” (140). Freaky fits into and updates these observations. It provides a female-centered vision of rape; when the football players threaten to gang-rape the-Butcher-as-Millie, it is still upsetting, even though they are actually threatening a monstrous killer. It also presents rape as ordinary, threatened or enacted by regular high school guys. Notably, the Butcher’s threat is not one of rape – he may be violent and sadistic, but he doesn’t seem interested in rape. In fact, the film opens with one teenage girl wryly saying, “Don’t underestimate the straight white man’s propensity for violence.” She is describing the Butcher, but this statement could just as easily be about the young men she goes to school with.

Furthermore, Millie has not been raped but has been bullied and harassed – by other students and even by her teacher – which also fits with Clover’s analysis of the genre as primarily about humiliation rather than about sex. Significantly, Millie identifies this harassment as central to her sense of self in a key scene, during which she says that she enjoys some elements of being in the killer’s body: “I’ve felt oddly empowered by being in this body, like invincible or kind of badass.” She no longer feels weak. This emphasis on physical strength recurs throughout, and part of what’s powerful about the film is that it acknowledges the feeling of powerlessness that comes with being a young woman (5’5”, a full foot shorter than Vince Vaughn) in a society that does not value teenage girls and that does value physical strength.

woman with bloodied scythe

The film also uncovers the power in that body, though, both when the killer uses it and when Millie regains it. The-Butcher-as-Millie may not be as large or strong as he’s used to being, but he finds ways to kill anyway. In the scene where he murders Millie’s shop teacher (Alan Ruck), the poster beside the teacher’s desk argues that if you want to succeed in life you should “try harder.” The Butcher initially fails to kill him, stymied by the new physical constraints, but he tries harder and finds ways to use her body to take revenge. And in the final scene of the movie, when Millie-as-Millie kills the Butcher, she does so by using her own physical power, impaling him and knocking him over. As it turns out, she may not be invincible, but she is “kind of badass.”

One important consequence of applying the rape-revenge structure to this film is that it allows the viewer to watch Millie (or at least Millie’s body) enact revenge without Millie herself being damaged by this revenge. The murders the-Butcher-as-Millie commits thus both reveal Millie’s strength (a strength she hadn’t recognized in herself) and provide the pleasure of a rape-revenge movie. They are, conveniently, committed against people who bullied Millie or even threatened to rape her, after all. But by having the Butcher commit these murders, the audience is able to enjoy the spectacle of Millie’s revenge without having to worry about the trauma caused to Millie by the reality of revenge.

screenshot of twitter postThe “good for her” genre is similar to rape-revenge films but more broad-ranging. It includes movies like Carrie (1976), Jennifer’s Body (2009), The Witch (2015), The Love Witch (2016), Ready or Not (2019), and (arguably) Midsommar (2019) and is defined by female revenge, but also by female pleasure, transcendence, and escape (depending on the film). One key distinction between rape-revenge and “good for her” films is revealed in their names – rape-revenge focuses on plot structure and actions while “good for her” focuses on audience affect.

This “good for her” feeling occurs at multiple points in Freaky. The first is when the-Butcher-as-Millie arrives at school, striding through the hallway looking like the badass Millie is beginning to feel like while in the Butcher’s body. Wearing a red leather jacket and a high ponytail, getting wide-mouthed stares from her classmates who know her as a softer girl, this feels like a scene from a makeover movie like She’s All That (1999) or Mean Girls (2004) instead of a slasher. Everyone sees Millie differently now, which is satisfying on some level, even if it’s not really Millie they’re seeing.

Kaiya Shunyata notes that the “good for her” genre is not entirely positive, however. She writes,

There are times when it’s used in ways which spark some kind of joy (Brian De Palma’s Carrie, Lisbeth Salander of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo franchise, and the women of superhero films), but this genre and its influences have slowly become something else entirely. More often than not, this genre weaponizes white womanhood and is only interested in traumatized and brutalized women.

Millie’s body during most of Freaky and in her Final Girl moment at the end of the film both provoke a “good for her” kind of reaction, even if it’s complicated by her body being inhabited by a serial killer. But this complication is also what allows the film to avoid the focus on “traumatized and brutalized women.” Millie’s body is able to enact vengeance and Millie herself is able to defeat the killer, but she is not traumatized or brutalized like Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) is in The Witch, for instance, and her triumph does elicit joy.

Another source of pleasure in the film that ties it to both rape-revenge and “good for her” films is its investment in highlighting and joking about Millie’s school mascot: the beaver. Millie wears the mascot uniform at the homecoming game, prompting some football players to make crude remarks, and she is still wearing it when she is attacked by the Butcher. My favorite, however, is the banner that gleefully exclaims, “Beavers Bite Back!” This evokes yet another 21st century rape-revenge horror-comedy that also generates a “good for her” response: Teeth (2007). Teeth is much darker than Freaky, but they belong to the same family.

Ultimately, Freaky does end with Millie acting out the role of the Final Girl by taking on the Butcher. But she is not a typical Final Girl. She doesn’t have to do this alone; she is flanked by her sister and mother, and her murder of the Butcher meets with their approval. She also shows pride in herself, standing tall and confidently afterward. She is not Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) huddled in the corner at the end of Halloween after barely surviving. She thus avoids the trauma that inevitably follows from being the Final Girl (but which is not often addressed), “the particular trauma of Final Girls” that Shira Lipkin describes: “The final girl knows that there is always a chasm beneath. She is just waiting, every night waiting in cold blue 3 a.m. light, for the surface tension to break.”

Instead, Millie defeats the killer, connects with her friends and family, breaks the curse and gets her body back, and even gets the guy in the end – despite the fact that the most moving moment between Millie and her love interest Booker (Uriah Shelton) comes when she is in Vince Vaughn’s body.

Good for her.

You can rent Freaky on Amazon (ad):


Clover, Carol J. Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. Princeton University Press, 1992.

Keetley, Dawn. “Freaky: His Body, Herself.” Horror Homeroom, 10 Dec. 2020.

Lipkin, Shira. “The Final Girl.” Strange Horizons, 14 Apr. 2014.

Shunyata, Kaiya. “We Need to Talk About the ‘Good for Her’ Genre.” Lithium Magazine, 15 Jan. 2021.

Christy Tidwell is an Associate Professor of English & Humanities at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology. Her research most often addresses speculative fiction (primarily science fiction and horror), environment, and gender. She is co-editor of (and contributor to) Gender and Environment in Science Fiction (Lexington, 2019) and a forthcoming edited collection on ecohorror. For more, check out her website or follow her on Twitter.

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