‘Happy Death Day’ Review

Director: Christopher Landon

Writer: Scott Lobdell

Cast: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine, Charles Aitken, Rachel Matthews, Jason Bayle, Laura Clifton and Rob Mello

Synopsis: A college student relives the day of her murder with both its unexceptional details and terrifying end until she discovers her killer’s identity.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Slasher movies are a dime a dozen in the horror genre, however, what use to be the dominant subgenre in film has pretty much kept itself to VOD or Red Box rentals. That’s not to say the subgenre isn’t great anymore, but it’s not as good as it was back in the day – probably. That being said, you got to give props to anyone who has the gull to do a modern day slasher nowadays and give it a twist. That’s what the folks over at Blumhouse did, giving Happy Death Day the Groundhog Day treatment, and despite my early thoughts on the movie, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. However, it does misstep on a lot of areas.

The movie follows Tree (Jessica Rothe) – short of Theresa – on her birthday. She wakes up, hungover, in a dorm room that belongs to Carter (Israel Broussard), and as she leaves she comes across certain things; her father calling her, a weird guy checking her out, an activist trying to get her to sign a petition, sprinklers going off on a couple, a car alarm going off, a pledge off, an admirer, dealing with her sorority sisters and meeting with her married professor. Along with a few other things, it all comes to a head when a masked killer kills her – however, when she dies she wakes up back in Carter’s room and relives the day. Tree must then try to put the pieces together, and find out who has been trying to kill her. Lucky for her, she has an unlimited amount of lives.

Happy Death Day was not a movie was I really looking forward to, but I kept my reservation to myself and took the movie in like I do for every movie. That said, I was pleasantly surprised by the movie, but that’s not to say the movie was all that great. Happy Death Day has a pretty good concept, and I applaud writer Scott Lobdell and director Christopher Landon for fully embracing it and not making the movie too cliché. The movie does unfortunately carry some tropes with it, but the concept and the movie not trying to take itself too seriously, does help it out just a tad.

Given the concept, Jessica Rothe is left to carry the movie on her shoulders, and for the most part she carries pretty damn well. Rothe’s Tree does make bad decisions like expected, but she does bunker down to try and figure out what exactly is going on. Tree also isn’t the most likeable person either. In fact, none of the characters, with the exception of Carter and a random girl sitting outside the sorority, are terrible people and not likeable at all. It’s to be expected, but it is off putting for a while.

Although, I’m not one to complain about a movie’s rating, Happy Death Day’s rating of PG-13 doesn’t do it any favors. Which is odd, considering you can get away with a lot in PG-13 movies nowadays, and this movie could have benefited more with a hard PG-13 rating. Given the concept, I thought there would be some elaborate or even at least one creative kill, but the movie shows them off-screen, and even when they are shown, they’re very bloodless – unless you count the blood on the masked killer’s knife. I know there’s a lot of debate amongst horror fans about PG-13 and R-rated horror movies, and while I don’t need every horror movie to be rated-R, Happy Death Day could have benefited by pushing the rating, at least for one kill.

Another con I would point out is even though the movie has a brisk one hour and thirty-eight minute runtime, Happy Death Day loses some steam before the final act. However, the final act does tighten everything up. Additionally, there is one particular subplot that involves Tree that seems rather important, and hints at connecting to the overall story, but it’s never really fleshed out and feels rather weird when it’s bought up and stops the movie completely. Landon has mentioned in interviews that this would be bought up in a potential sequel, but it is rather glaring when you sit down and think about it after watching the movie.

All in all, Happy Death Day is rather entertaining, and Jessica Rothe carries the movie on her shoulders. However, Happy Death Day also has glaring and unfortunate missteps that make the movie okay as opposed to be potentially great.

Happy Death Day

3 out of 5

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‘Edge of Tomorrow’ Review

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Dir: Doug Liman

Cast: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Noah Taylor, Jonas Armstrong, Tony Way, Kick Gurry, Franz Drameh, Charlotte Riley, and Brendan Gleeson

Synopsis: An officer finds himself caught in a time loop in a war with an alien race. His skills increase as he faces the same brutal combat scenarios, and his union with a Special Forces warrior gets him closer and closer to defeating the enemy.

 

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Live. Die. Repeat.

 

 

Based on Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s novel “All You Need is Kill” (with some changes obviously, although I don’t know how many because I haven’t read it), Edge of Tomorrow is a Groundhog Day-like movie with sci-fi elements, aliens, and the fate of the world. What more could you want?

 

Tom Cruise plays Major William Cage. More of a PR guy than a solider – even says he can’t stand the sight of blood – Cage goes to London to handle the media before a big attack, but ends up at odds with United Defense Force General Bingham (Gleeson) orders him to join the first wave so he can deliver a first-hand account of proceedings. That is if he can make it. Unsurprisingly, Cage sucks on the battlefield, even with the use of the weaponized suit. Once he finally gets a handle of the suit, he manages kill one of the aliens named Mimics and dies.

 

That’s right. Tom Cruise dies in the movie’s first ten minutes. And not some half-ass death either, no, it is a pretty gruesome death that I really did not see coming. But, of course we all know the twist is that Cruise doesn’t really die. It’s when he dies that he gets the power of a Mimic and he wakes up earlier in the day before the attack on the beach. Not knowing what’s going on at first, Cage relives the day over again and gets back on the beach but this time runs into war hero Rita Vrataski (Blunt). Rita soon realizes that Cage has gotten the ability that she herself once had before she lost it. She soon helps him to stop the all out extinction of the Mimics and destroy the source of their power.

 

One of the cool things about Edge of Tomorrow is the concept. Yes, we have seen it before but what the movie does it that it keeps a bit fresh. It is almost like a video game, Cage gets killed in a violent way every time but comes back and makes it a little farther every time. Every time he comes back, Cage is wiser and trains harder to become an actual soldier and stand side by side with Rita.

 

But with movies that involves some sort of time travel or repetition element to them, there is bound to be question raised on how everything works. Filmmakers can leave it up for the audience to figure out, or they have a character that describes it to them. Edge of Tomorrow has that character in the form of Dr. Carter (Taylor), who knows how the Mimics work and how the power that Cage has works. A lot of people usually see this as a sort of cop out because how does a guy know soo much about the enemy? This also leads to expositional block explaining how everything works and why it is important. Again, here Edge of Tomorrow begins to both distinguish itself from other films and is necessary, at least for this type of movie. But it does not mean it make mistakes along the way.

 

As you suspect, Cruise gets most of the screen time here, and does great. It’s nice though to see one of the biggest stars in Hollywood die over and over again, but also play a bit of a coward. We usually see Cruise play this hard, tough guy but here Cruise’s Cage will do anything to get out of fighting at the beginning. Emily Blunt is also good as always, and while I do not always agree with critics, Blunt should have gotten more screen time but thus is the position you play when starring alongside Tom Cruise.

 

The supporting cast has some real great moments, mostly over shadowed by Bill Paxton’s Master Sergeant Farrell. Paxton of course is no stranger to alien and genre fare movies so it is nice to see him here chewing up the scene. The actors that play J-Squad (Armstrong, Way, Gurry, Drameh, Riley) have their moments are, by the looks of them, the “loser” squad. Brendan Gleeson is nothing more than a glorified cameo, but is still nice to see him on screen, especially being a little antagonistic toward Cruise. Finally, the Mimics are interesting. Their designs look a lot like the Sentinels in The Matrix but are far quicker and deadlier looking.

 

Finally, despite all the action you see in the marketing – there is a lot – the movie is also really funny. The movie takes itself seriously, but never to the extent that it can not make fun of itself. Some of the funny moments come from Cage’s deaths, and some include Rita shooting Cage during to training. What’s also nice about the movie is you see the toll it takes on Cage to live day in and day out. Stuck in a loop you can’t escape from until you die, and then you have to restart. Yeah, that would suck.

 

All in all, I did not really expect to like Edge of Tomorrow as much as I did. The movie is fun and everything you want to enjoy in a summer movie. Everyone is either split of hates the ending of the movie. While I can see why people would have problems with it, I did not have a problem with it. If you want to have some fun, laugh, and see some pretty descent action Edge of Tomorrow will fill that need.

 

Edge of Tomorrow

4 out of 5