Happy Death Day was an absolute riot to see on the big screen. It was filled with humor, frustration (both sexual and violent), and a most definite dose of murder mystery. In an odd sort of way it reminded me of Woody Allen’s Manhattan Murder Mystery more so than Harold Ramis’s obvious influential Groundhog Day. I suppose they’re the same when mixed together, but in a clever turn of direction and even more clever misdirection, director Christopher Landon and writer Scott Lobdell gave the PG-13 crowd something to revel in when it came to horror comedy. This time Landon took full charge with cowriter Michael Kennedy in creating the same quirky mur-com (murder-comedy; I’ll make that viral, I swear) with the much needed R-rating that the genre deserves.
This film’s twist didn’t come with a time loop, though. Instead, the clock was turned on itself: Rather than dying over and over until the crime is properly solved, the clock goes from infinity to 24 hours: Then the magical switch of two conscious’s devastates the order of everything that we know to be true about the slasher film: that of the innocent being a shy, short blonde virgin named Millie (Kathryn Newton) with the tall, brooding and unsympathetic psychopath known simply as The Butcher (Vince Vaughn). After the transformation, it’s only a matter of time.
And like most films in existence, this one relies on time. Our innocent Millie trapped in The Butcher’s body has less than 24 hours to find The Butcher (in Millie’s adorable innocent little body) and end the curse before it becomes permanent. If you’re thinking this plot is very much by-the-book, then you’re absolutely right. The countdown before permanence can be attributed to loads of horror classics. The first film that comes to mind is a little film about a possessed doll named Chucky. In 1988’s Child’s Play a serial killer transfers his spirit into something much more innocent and therefore least likely: a doll. Millie is absolutely that doll, but instead of transferring sentience from a dying being to an inanimate one, she’s sent from one animate being to another. The tables have turned; or in this case, the curse was completely ineffective.
Vaughn’s The Butcher steals a sacred and cursed knife near the beginning, although the psychopath clearly knows nothing about the blade. Thanks to the goofy, bored, and purposefully stereotyped characters, such as the African-American Nyla (Celeste O’Connor) and the flamboyantly gay Josh (Misha Osherovich) (the latter which screams a hysterical cry for help, “You’re black! I’m gay! We are so dead!”), Freaky is immediately self-aware. In this case, that is a damn good thing.
The scene that truly stayed with me the most, the scene that made me the most tense but also made me laugh the most, is when Josh ties up the possessed Mille (AKA The Butcher) and his mom walks in on the BDSM-looking scene. After a very awkward, “what is happening” conversation, Josh confesses he’s straight. It’s hysterical enough, but what tops it off is not only his mother saying he’s anything but straight, but also the confused look on possessed Millie’s face. Even The Butcher finds that hard to believe.
The ending of the film, whether it’s obvious or not, doesn’t matter. What matters is that Landon embraced a graphic serial killer comedy while still attaching the idea to a comedic plot to create something obvious yet needed: An old fashioned, bloody good time.
JD Stars: *** out of ****