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Happy Death Day Review

“You already killed me once.” - Tree Glebman


 

It strikes me that I miss my long, lamented readership of Fangoria magazine in more ways than one. Not only was it a good and entertaining read, but it would often put films like this one on my radar. Thankfully, checking the multiplex listings and seeing the trailer slapped this right on my “must watch” list and I’m glad it did. (Though, in truth, it was actually a tagalong film that I added to a hastily put together double bill with Jigsaw.)

I’ve long been a fan of slasher movies. But the trouble with slasher movies is that their heyday was about thirty years ago when just about every holiday had a slasher attached to it. Halloween, Friday the 13th, April Fool’s Day, Black Christmas, My Bloody Valentine, Happy Birthday to Me…. And it was done to death, if you’ll pardon the pun. (Thankfully, there was no Bar Mitzvah slasher.)

Then came Scream. The quartet of Scream movies were self aware satires of the genre, and their conventions, tropes and traditions – and all went silent. When the films become satirical or, worse, self-reverential (the line can be a thin one) there’s nowhere left to go. Sadly, at this point the new horror craze became the tiresome “based on true events” hauntings. Short on scares except the sudden loud blast of music cheap startling fright that I loathe because it involves no creeping horror or sense of unease – it’s just like being slapped awake from a nap.

Another problem with horror in general is that there’s little in the genre that’s fresh, new or exciting. Maybe having been watching them since my teens, and having watched several trends come and go and return and go again I’m just jaded. But every so often, something new DOES come along and capture my imagination. Be it a new concept like It Follows, which I loved a couple of years ago – or Friend Request…or an interesting twist on an old favourite. Like Happy Death Day.

Essentially, the film is a cross of a traditional slasher movie, set on a campus, mixed with Groundhog Day. What makes the film pretty much a delight is its clever mix of horror and comedy, with an outstanding performance by Jessica Rothe as Tree Glebman.

Tree is a typical, unremarkable college girl. A sorority sister, whose house seems filled with vapid, bitchy, image conscious, flawless airheads. Tree is also pretty much a bitch. Mean, haughty and superior. She wakes up one morning after a heavy night partying. It’s her birthday, she’s in the dorm room of a guy from the previous night whose name she can’t even remember. She’s late for class, and she rudely brushes off everybody she meets between where she woke up and her own room in the sorority house.

On her way to a party, she ignores a call from her father, who was waiting for her to join him for a birthday dinner…and gets stabbed to death by a mask wearing maniac.

So far, so good – standard slasher fare, right?

Except she wakes up the following morning, convinced it was a nightmare and with a distinct feeling of deja vouz as everything happens all over again. The day goes the same way, and ends the same way.

And again.

And again.

She starts to make subtle changes in the day, but the ending is inevitable. She knows she’s going to die and her fate is inescapable. A lot of the comedy is the montage of ways the killer gets to her, despite her attempts to be somewhere different, even when she’s trying to work her way through a list of suspects she’s compiled. But that’s not to say that some of the scenes are actually very effective – startling, even.

Tree has to get to the killer before the killer gets to her, and even then, there are a few surprising twists along the way, as the murder mystery deepens. But I’m not going to give any spoilers here.

See it, and savour its old-school slasher movie sensibilities, enjoy the ride and you’ll have a grin on your face as the credits roll. It’s truly both a breath of fresh air in the genre and more importantly, a blast. 






Copyright © 2010 - 2017 Robin Pierce. All Rights reserved.

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