UNIVERSAL PICTURES (2017)

 

Director: Christopher B. Landon

 

Starring: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine, Rachel Matthews, Charles Aitken

“Would you stop looking at me like I just took a dump on your mom’s head?”

 

Possibly the highest (and lowest) moment in a movie disappointingly crammed full of low points. Happy Death Day is another riff on the live-die-repeat formula that is fast becoming tiresome. Well, it’s tiresome when it isn’t done well, and it goes without saying that it isn’t done well here.

 

It’s Groundhog Day, Mean Girls and Scream blended together – though, those three movies are better than this.

Tree (Rothe) is a self-centered, obnoxious and unlikable college student.

 

End of review.

 

OK, I’ll carry on. Waking on her birthday in not-jock Carter’s (Broussard) bed, Tree rushes out to continue her day of being insufferable to those around her – classmates, roommates, family and ex-bed buddies, all whilst making time for an affair with her married professor Gregory (Aitken). It’s the night of the big sorority party, and travelling alone through the dark streets, Tree encounters a musical toy playing “Happy Birthday” in a dimly-lit tunnel before a mysterious figure with a babyface mask stalks and murders her. Game over. Except it isn’t, Tree wakes up back in Carter’s bed and the previous day’s events all repeat themselves verbatim – except, it’s still her birthday and she’s still being hunted. With death after death every night at the hands of the same baby-faced assassin, Tree and Carter eventually come to the conclusion that she must begin whittling down the suspect list in order to stop her murder merry-go-round and attempt to save her life.

 

As an initial heads up, Happy Death Day’s key moments are in the trailer – if you’ve seen that, then you may as well pass on the movie.

 

A rare Blumhouse Productions bomb, the movie is a big disappointment. I was hoping for a lot more from Happy Death Day. I in no way expected a horror classic, but when The Babysitter hits more marks than your movie, you’re already in trouble. The movie coasts along with an odd tone, it’s never really a bonafide horror movie (despite sweeping the horror convention board) and it’s never at any point a comedy, it’s a mix of swing and misses with the very occasional home run. It’s frustrating writing this as I really wanted to like the movie. C’est la vie.

 

It’s another nail in the coffin when the lead character begins as horribly obnoxious, and never really breaks the trend until it’s far too late. As Tree is being murdered in a (small) variety of ways, at no point did I give two hoots or really even care if she escaped her nightmare – though if she hadn’t, would I still be watching the movie unfold?! Jessica Rothe tries her hardest at a variety of expressions and motivations, but none hit the spot.

 

Another massive faux pas occurs when the murderer is utterly devoid of any fear factor. Babyface is certainly no Ghostface. The fat-faced turd appears at random, usually at incomprehensible times or places, and carries no terror. When the identity of the killer is revealed, you’ll wish for the fat-faced turds knife to penetrate your heart and end your misery. It’s a horrifically underwhelming twist that manages to undermine the events of the movie that preceded it – it’s a seriously weak reveal. Even after the lacklustre investigation that took place to attempt to unveil the antagonist – had the investigation been a greater element of the movie, it would have been a stronger product overall. A thriller element would have been added and the tension required could have come with it.

 

The killer appears behind you when you turn around, crashing music follows jump scares – another heads up.

 

Some of the death scenes are cool and well-shot, the police car death being the standout. It looks good, it’s shot well and for the first time, Babyface does something worthwhile and fitting of a horror villain.

 

The soundtrack is electro-heavy, with Demi Lovato thrown in for extra measure, it’s not a rampaging soundtrack by any means. However, any movie that includes William Bell’s We Got Something Good deserves small praise, so have some small praise Happy Death Day.

 

Wearing his horror influences on his sleeve, Christopher B. Landon is unapologetically paying homage to much better films than Happy Death Day (the smug Groundhog Day reference can simply piss off). There’s a premise for a solid movie here, unfortunately, it is not executed in any successful way to merit anything other than disappointment. It’s a horror for the E! Network crowd.

 

Argh.

October 22nd 2017

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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