Sunday, October 28, 2018

Happy Death Day

Directed by Christopher B. Landon and written by Scott Lobdell, Happy Death Day is the story of a college student who is killed on her birthday as she finds herself reliving that day just to found who killed her. The film is a horror comedy that forces a young woman to figure out who killed her and why as it play into all sorts of hijinks that also include ideas of time loops and satire on slasher films. Starring Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, and Ruby Modine. Happy Death Day is an exhilarating and captivating film from Christopher B. Landon.

A college student wakes up at a student’s dorm room as she spends her birthday dealing with meetings involving her sorority, ditching a lunch with her dad, ignoring other people, trying to get ready for a party, and then gets killed by someone wearing a mask only to find herself in a time loop where she relives that day all over again. It’s a film that has an offbeat premise that definitely owes its idea to the 1993 Harold Ramis film Groundhog Day which the film does reference as it play into a young woman dealing with the fact that it’s her birthday which she’s reluctant to celebrate as she realizes she’s in a time loop as she tries to find the killer only to get killed over and over again.

Scott Lobdell’s screenplay explores the day that Theresa “Tree” Gelbman is reliving over and over again as she tries to find her killer but also try to understand the killer’s motive as well as herself where she’s trying to avoid the fact that her mother had died and they shared the same birthday. At the same time, she tries to find ways to avoid being killed only to be outsmarted by the killer as she seeks advice from fellow student Carter Davis (Israel Broussard) whose room she keeps waking up at who would help her.

Christopher B. Landon’s direction definitely bears an element of style in its approach to repetition as well as recreating scenes that play into Tree’s birthday from waking up in Carter’s room to the moment she is killed. Shot on location in and around Loyola University in New Orleans, Louisiana where the film is set, Landon mainly emphasizes on medium shots and close-ups to play into the interaction between characters and where they are at. Even as Landon would recreate the same opening sequence of Tree returning to her sorority and having the same conversations with one of the sisters and go on with her day that includes a tryst with one of her professors in Gregory Butler (Charles Aitken). Yet, she would meet these individuals over again and see things in a different light where Landon’s direction does play into the repetitions of the day along with revelations of those that she thought she knew.

Landon would use a few wide shots to get a look at the locations as well as in a few shots that play into the sense of repetition. Even as the second act would break from the routines where Tree is determined to find the killer as there is a montage where she would do things differently only to have things not go her way. Landon would use some slanted camera angles for a few chase scenes as well as some dark humor into moments that play into Tree being killed where she knows she’s fucked and accepts it. The third act is about Tree dealing with who she is where the direction does mixes humor, drama, and suspense as it would play into her attempts to break the time loop and unveil her killer. Overall, Landon crafts an engaging and riveting film about a college student reliving the day she is killed by a mysterious killer.

Cinematographer Toby Oliver does excellent work with the film’s cinematography as it does have bits of style in some of the visuals set at night including in the interiors that include a night where Tree is about to make out with a guy in his room. Editor Gregory Plotkin does terrific work with the editing as it has some style in some of the film’s montages as well as rhythmic cuts to play into the repetition and how the opening scene is recreated through different cutting styles. Production designer Cece Destefano, with set decorator Gretchen Gattuso and art director Michelle C. Harmon, does fantastic work with the look of Carter’s dorm room as well as the room that Tree lives in with her sorority and some of the places she goes to. Costume designer Meagan McLaughlin does nice work with the costumes from the dress that Tree wears the first time she gets killed to the more casual look including a t-shirt of Carter’s that she wears every time she wakes up.

Visual effects supervisor Grant Miller does brilliant work with some of the film’s minimal visual effects as it relates to some of the big set pieces involving Tree’s numerous deaths. Sound designer Trevor Gates does superb work with the sound in the way certain sounds appear in the film’s opening sequence and heard again as well as the atmosphere of some of the film’s locations. The film’s music by Bear McCreary is wonderful for its usage of orchestral music mixed in with some electronic music to play into some of the humor and suspense while music supervisor Andrea von Foerster provides a fun soundtrack of music ranging from folk, indie, electronic dance music, pop, and hip-hop to play into the atmosphere of college.

The casting by Terri Taylor is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles from Tran Tran as a sorority sister that Tree first meets on the day she’s killed, Cariella Smith as a sorority sister who just wants to eat breakfast, Phi Vu as Carter’s dim-witted roommate, Jason Bayle as Tree’s father, Dane Rhodes as a police officer at the hospital, Laura Clifton as Butler’s wife Stephanie, Caleb Spillyards as a fling of Tree’s, and Rob Mello as the suspected serial killer John Tombs. Charles Aitken is superb as the professor Gregory Butler who is having a fling with Tree that isn’t going anywhere while Rachel Matthews is fantastic as sorority head Danielle Bouseman who forces her sisters to look a certain away and avoid eating fatty foods and carbs.

Ruby Modine is excellent as Tree’s roommate Lori Spengler as a med student who is concerned about Tree’s behavior as she also tried to be good to her despite the issues they have. Israel Broussard is brilliant as Carter as college student who helps Tree in trying to find out who killed her as well as provide theories where he proves to be competent ally. Finally, there’s Jessica Rothe in an amazing performance as Theresa “Tree” Gelbman as a college student who has become indifferent about her birthday in favor of being popular where she finds herself in a time loop in getting killed over and over again as it’s a charismatic and witty performance that play with the tropes of typical horror characters with Rothe also giving the character a chance to show some redeeming qualities.

Happy Death Day is an incredible film from Christopher B. Landon. Featuring a great ensemble cast, a playful music soundtrack, and a witty premise that engages the audience into the suspense and humor. It’s a film that isn’t afraid to play with the conventions of horror while also not being afraid in acknowledging its influences towards its premise. In the end, Happy Death Day is a remarkable film from Christopher B. Landon.

Christopher B. Landon Films: (Burning Palms) – (Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones) – Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse - (Happy Death Day 2U)

© thevoid99 2018


Often Off Topic said...

I know this is going to sound really silly but I had no idea this was a Horror Comedy! I mean the comedy part...I knew it was a horror, haha! I just might have to give this one a go :)

keith71_98 said...

This thing really surprised me. It looked and sounded ridiculous but I was pretty enthralled. Now there is a sequel coming and it looks like it is really tapping into the crazier (and goofier) side of the whole thing. Whether it works...we shall see.

thevoid99 said...

@Allie-It knows that it's not being original yet it never takes itself seriously. It's what horror films need to be sometimes. Just play with the tropes of the genre and have fun with it.

@keith71_98-I was surprised about the film as well. I'm definitely on board for the sequel as I just hope it's good and funny. "Oh shit, I'm dead again. OK, let's try and see who is doing this and why?"

Brittani Burnham said...

This is high in my Netflix queue now. I thought the trailers looked so stupid when I first saw them, then I read that the film really embraced its ridiculousness so I'm all for it.

thevoid99 said...

@Brittani-It's one of those films where if you just turned your brain off and not think about "oh this film is so unoriginal". You'd end up having a good time as I think it's on HBO/Cinemax right now.