Happy Death Day (2017)

“I wish this was 1981 and we weren’t having these be our movies. We deserve way better.” That’s what Becca said after watching this movie and she actually enjoyed this one. Yes, you may say that horror is on the rise, with It being the highest grossing genre film ever and Get Out being considered for major awards. But give us the 70’s and 80’s, when you had a murder’s row of slashers and horror flicks to choose from every week at the movies or drive-in, instead one or two to pick from.

Written by comic book scribe Scott Lobdell and directed by Christopher B. Landon (Disturbia, that’s not even a word), the elevator speech for this film is pretty simple: it’s Groundhog Day meets Halloween. Yes, every single day, Theresa “Tree” Gelbma wakes up and is horribly killed, only for the same day to start all over again. And again.

Tree makes the heroine’s journey from self-centered mean girl to action-ready final girl across the span of around two week’s worth of being brutally murdered. The twist that a serial killer is involved suddenly grounds the film where previously it seemed like it was shooting for the giallo, where everyone and anyone could be the killer. That’s where Becca checked out.

Me? I liked it. I didn’t like the end of the film allusion to Groundhog Day, with Tree admitting that she’d never seen it. It seemed like such a Scream way to get around the biggest issue this film has — it’s only original because it’s a mash-up of previously made movies. There’s also a scene set exactly like Sixteen Candles, but this is where I realize that I’m old and that this film’s target audience has probably never seen a John Hughes movie.

Happy Death Day was in development for a decade, starting as Half to Death with Megan Fox attached. Director Landon even did a rewrite way back when, so when the film’s producer remembered that at a meeting, she brought up the unfilmed script. Thanks to his work on the Paranormal Activity series, Blumhouse was quick to greenlight the film.

The baby mask was designed by Tony Gardner, the same guy who made the Ghostface mask for Scream. There was a chance that it almost was a pig mask, but the evil baby killer face that keeps showing up in the film is pretty unsettling.

There’s talk of a sequel, which probably wouldn’t have happened if the film ended the way it was originally intended to. In that version, we’d follow Tree to the hospital after meeting up with the real killer and she’s murdered in the hospital by a nurse — who ends up being Dr. Butler’s wife Stephanie, in revenge for the affair that she is having with her husband. What a downer, right?

Here’s the weirdest part of the movie. There’s another film called Before I Fall that has the exact same plot, where a girl has to live the same day over and over again, trying to make things better but still dying. That’d be fine if the trailer for that film wasn’t on the DVD for Happy Death Day! Talk about weird placement. Hey — our film may only seem original until you see a trailer for a film that you may be confused into thinking is the same film you’re currently watching.

Maybe my steady diet of Sergio Martino and Joe D’Amoto movies has made me crazy, because I expect more weirdness in every film I watch. That said, this is a mainstream Hollywood film made for teens and tweens, so perhaps I should have tempered my expectations. It’s good, but it never makes you jump, it never really makes you think (pther than the gigantic plot hole that if each death starts adding up, even after the happy ending isn’t going to be so happy, but that’s just ignored) and it passes by rather quickly.

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