Wednesday, December 2

Happy Death Day (2017)

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Heathers meets Groundhog Day in a sassy serial killer comedy. From the opening moments when the Universal logo stutters to a stop and plays twice over before finally playing all the way through, you know you’re not watching your average teen campus-killer flick.

College fresher and party animal Tree (Jessica Rothe) wakes up in a stranger’s dorm after a heavy night, with an unknown young man next to her. She dodges a birthday call from her dad, and rushes off, but receives a creepy birthday card. Short tempered and shallow, she dodges exes, is randomly rude, sleeps with a married lecturer and ignores her dowdy, downtrodden roommate, Ida. The latter tries to make her feel better with a homemade birthday cupcake (which Tree ungratefully discards).

Writer Scott Lobdell starts the script as a college version of splattergore horror Valentine, where a killer sporting a creepy cherub mask also pursues young women unwise enough to walk around alone at night. Tree later meets a gruesome death at the hands of the weapon-wielding cherub, but shortly afterwards finds herself waking up in the dorm bed again with her dad ringing her again to wish her happy returns. After yet another cherubic death, she wakes up to find things get even more Ground(horror)hog Day, as the young man (who turns out to be called Carter) has no recollection of ever having met her, but suggests she tries to find out who could be forcing her to repeat her “deathday”. Tree tries to detect who is after her, gets arrested to stay safe in a cell, tries to fight off a serial killer who appears to be after her, confides in Carter that she feels like she’s trapped in Punxsutawney. but nothing prevents her from waking up safe and sound the next day.

Funny, insightful, unpredictable and occasionally gruesome, this is a gory cut above most silly-teenager horrors. There’s a particularly nice twist that lets the viewer think once she becomes a better person she will be released from her time prison, but there’s no let up from her Triangle-style time prison. Director Christopher Landon keeps the random circuit Tree has to follow entertainingly upbeat, as she, like Phil, attempts to end it all via getting hit by a bus and then at the top of a tower. Rothe is perfect as the Heathers-style entertainingly-bitchy campus good time girl in this unpredictable and sassy horror-com.

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