HAPPY DEATH DAY
Director: Christopher Landon
Year of release: 2017
Country of origin: USA
Running time: 96 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: Probably both will be upcoming though not yet released.
Tagline: "Get up. Live your day. Get killed. Again".
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: College student Tree wakes up on her birthday disorientated in the dorm room of a guy she doesn't know. As it turns out he is someone she met while drunk the previous night. Brushing him rudely aside she goes about her day, briefly returning to her sorierty house before attending a lecture. She rushes around generally being abrupt and bitchy to all and sundry until she is stopped in her tracks in a dark subway style tunnel on her way to a party by a masked stranger. The confrontation leads to Tree being murdered by the masked assailant which judging by her behavior up to this point leaves us almost with a "serves her right" type feeling. Far from staying dead however Tree wakes up in bed in the same dorm room that she did earlier that morning. It appears she is stuck in a Groundhog Day style time loop where she will keep reliving the days events with all her memories intact until she can successfully evade her attacker and piece together the mystery of their identity. As she goes through the cycle of each day, ultimately failing in her ambitions but gaining more knowledge each time, she also gradually becomes a better person learning to treat people in her life with more respect.
Good points: Although not original in itself as it of course borrows heavily from Groundhog Day and more recently the Life is Strange video game the being caught in a time loop gimmick is fresh for this genre and sets Happy Death Day apart. It puts a fresh spin on things and definitely makes it feel different and in turn more memorable than much of the competition. I liked how they added a secondary element to the story as well with Tree not only trying to get to the bottom of who is after her but also how she begins to realise as events progress that she is not a very nice person. As this dawns on her she starts to take steps towards changing, slowly becoming more and more likeable. By the end she has turned herself into someone we can actually root for whereas it was the opposite at the beginning of her journey when she was killed the first time. So we have two threads to the story running parallel to one another with both Tree's transformation of character playing out against the more traditional mystery who dunnit aspects.
Speaking of the mystery is proves to be quite a compelling one with a range of possibilities popping up throughout the story. Could it be nice guy Carter who Tree wakes up with having spent the night with him, ultra bitch sorierty sister Danielle, the sleazy professor Greg who she is having an affair with, Greg's wife or perhaps the slightly creepy guy she blows off at one point whom she had shared a date with in the past? These are just some of the candidates. As things progress the list begins to get whittled down with some of the suspects getting killed off themselves in different variations of Tree's day as the killer tries to get to her. I found that it kept me guessing right up until the final stages.
Regarding the ending there is a bit of a sting in the tail with this one with a nice little twist which did manage to catch me by surprise truth be told. It was pleasing to see the traditional slasher standard of a twist ending upheld and I certainly don't think it dissapointed here.
The killer looks okay. The mask is fairly freaky looking at least anyway being a cartoon babyface type design. I also liked how it was related to a college sports team (presumably a football team though I don't think it was made clear) which meant the killer could wear it and still blend in and not look too out of place similar to what we saw in say Sorierty Row for example.
A small thing but there was a dramatic menacing type sound effect that was featured at several points in the film which stood out for me and which I liked. Not sure how to describe it but one example of when it was used was when Tree was approaching Tomb's hospital bed.
Bad Points: Carrying what I think might be a PG 13 rating here in the UK this is very low on the blood and gore front with little violence to speak of. Other than splashes of red and blood on the knife I can't recall seeing a whole lot in terms of bloodshed which is a let down. Although there are no special effects to speak of in terms of the knife attacks and such the film elsewhere looks very glossy and smooth so not a low budget affair by any means. Well it probably wouldn't have gotten a cinematic release if it was but just to be clear you can rest easy if you don't like very low budget slashers as this definitely doesn't fall into that bracket.
Although it is the time loop gimmick that sets it apart it does act as a double edged sword as well as it means that many of the deaths we see end up not counting and getting reset once Tree dies herself and starts her day again so we end up with a very low bodycount. It also takes away a bit of the tension as it sometimes doesn't feel like there is much at stake as Tree can just relive the day again anyway if she messes up and dies. To the writers credit though they do try and remedy this by making it so that some of the injuries she sustains carry over into the next cycle so she is getting weaker and perhaps only has a certain number of chances to do everything right before she will sustain so much damage she will be unable to come back.
A very small nitpicking type thing here but you could say that for the last two cycles it was a bit unrealistic towards the end because given what had happened at the end of them both you would think one character would be detained by the police while the investigation is pending and not be allowed to go free for romantic liaisons.
Verdict: I went into this film with fairly low expectations as I didn't really fancy the idea of the main character being caught in a time loop and reliving the same day over and over. It actually turned out to be really entertaining though and although it did result in a lower body count than I would have liked the gimmick did the film a lot of favors. It stands out as being different and also has a sense of fun about it which adds to the enjoyment as does Tree's journey to slowly becoming more likeable as things progress. I'm not sure how true it is but I read a sequel is in the works already so with any luck this may spawn a franchise :)
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
Lori: Poisoned cupcake shoved into mouth and then pushed so that she falls out of a high window.