Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Movie Review: Happy Death Day

Taking a popular trope and splashing it onto a teenage thrasher doesn't do much for this dull horror release. The strangely named Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) is a shallow sorority girl who goes through her day selfishly blowing off others and insulting everyone she knows until she is murdered. She wakes up to find that she is repeating the same day over again but this takes a little longer than it should, especially since they advertised this film a lot and audiences are here for the conceit. She's murdered again and freaks out as she wakes up in the same position. No matter what she tries, she keeps getting murdered by a mysterious figure who wears the baby mascot mask. The murders are not very clever but the killer is very determined to take out Tree.

Tree keeps waking up in the dorm room of Carter (Israel Broussard), a guy she drunkenly went home with last night though he did not have sex with her. As she goes through repeated trauma, he turns from a total strange into a trusted ally that she asks for advice. He is skeptical each time the day resets but entertains the scenario and gives her advice of using her many lives to investigate who wants to kill her. She investigates the people who might hate her like the sorority leader Danielle (Rachel Matthews) but she rules them out right before she gets murder. The inevitable montage of repeated death plays out as she reduces the suspects. She was having an affair with her doctor professor Gregory Butler (Charles Atiken) but eliminates his wife Stephanie (Laura Clifton) as her murderer.

She has to figure out who knows it's her birthday because she deduced that the killer must know. Her roommate Lori Spengler (Ruby Modine) only figured out her birthday from her driver's license since Tree keeps it a secret. It has something to do with her mother's death but I wasn't sure if this ever got explained. She finally wakes up dizzy one day and it turns out that all those repeated deaths were actually taking a toll on her body. She winds up in the hospital but still the killer chases after her, even when she tries to escape in a car. She tries some absurd things but I never felt like she was really taking advantage of knowing what would happen in a day. There was humor but a little of it fell flat and Tree wasn't very likable until she started to take matters into her own hands, but half the movie had already gone by.

Tree discovers that a psycho killer Joseph Tombs (Rob Mello) was imprisoned at the hospital and had been breaking out on these repeated days so she figures that he is the killer. She prepares and though she kills him she has to reset the day since Carter died saving her life. She falls for him then and prepares the next time to kill Tombs before anything can happen. Still, she wakes up to find the day repeating and has to follow one last clue to realize the cupcake was poisoned by her roommate. This reveal was predictable and ridiculous as the explanation even seemed absurd to the main character. Lori's motive is only jealous and disgust so the elaborate murder plots seem farfetched. The film goes for a comedic and emotional ending but falls flat and I left the theater before any further explanation.

Happy Death Day looked like it could be an appealing film with fun horror but it turns out kind of boring. The film does not take advantage of its premise and doesn't have likable characters. This film feels like wasted potential as it only goes for minor scares as well so not functioning as much of a horror film either. I should have gone in with lower expectations but after some successful horror films from Universal and Blumhouse, I was thinking this would continue the trend. It did manage to top out at the box office so it was a financial success at least. 

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