November 4th 2017


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY National Energy Guarantee: lots of smoke, but no coal-fired power

EDITORIAL Popular revolt against the ideology of globalism

CANBERRA OBSERVED Paris still rules in the party room

ENERGY Renewables and gas conspire to push up prices

ENVIRONMENT Climate change did not cause California fires

ELECTRICITY Consumers will wake up only when there are blackouts: economists

ECONOMICS Something new under the sun from China

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Abbott gets brickbats for exposing house of straw

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Australia is far from fulfilling its potential

TECHNOLOGY Aussie scientists 'write' with adult stem cells

75TH ANNIVERSARY NCC: new challenges, kind of new adversaries

MUSIC All around the beat: the essential drummer

CINEMA Happy Death Day: Deja vu with a sharp edge

BOOK REVIEW Traditions under threat fight back

BOOK REVIEW Journey to freedom

LETTERS

ENERGY Coal-fired power needed to restore economic growth

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CINEMA
Happy Death Day: Deja vu with a sharp edge


by Symeon J. Thompson

News Weekly, November 4, 2017

Happy Death Day is a witty and well-made slasher flick with a twist – the victim keeps reliving the day of their death and so must try to stop the killer. It’s a light-hearted, and in some ways lightweight, thriller – but it’s done well and has a clearly moral core that makes it worthwhile.

Theresa – who for some reason has the nickname “Tree” – Gelbman (a charming Jessica Rothe) is an uppity, self-absorbed, not that nice, but nice to look at and knows it, college student from a sorority full of likeminded sorority sisters – the sort that consider breakfast a meal to miss and carbs something that happen to other people. On the day of her birthday she wakes up hung-over in the dorm room of Carter Davis (Israel Broussard), a genuinely decent and slightly awkward young bloke, who made sure she was OK after a pretty heavy night.

Tree goes thorough her day much like she presumably goes through every day, being mean to everyone who’s not her, focused mainly on her own immediate gratification. That night she wanders through the college grounds on her way to a party when she is pursued by a mysterious figure wearing one of the college mascot baby-face masks. Just as she thinks she has escaped the killer catches up to her and stabs her to death.

The next morning Tree wakes up in the same dorm room as the previous day with the exact same things happening. She fears she’s losing her mind, until that night, when she is killed again by the same masked figure, only to wake up again in the dorm room. Tree is stuck in a time loop, forced to relive the same day over and over again, getting killed each time and trying to stop that from happening – but with the added twist that her body shows signs of what she’s been through. Finally, she talks to Carter, who suggests that she use the opportunity to solve her own murder, by making a list of suspects and then making sure they aren’t the ones to kill her.

Unfortunately for Tree, there are a lot of suspects – like the guys she goes on one date with and then ignores; or the girls whose boyfriends and love interests she, umm, “befriends”. Pretty much everyone she interacts with has a reason to kill her. Her defence of “no one’s perfect” is so lame that Carter doesn’t even bother calling her out over it. However, as the story progresses Tree becomes more and more aware that she’s not a good person and she needs to fix up her life – while also stopping her own killer.

Happy Death Day is a surprisingly well-made and entertaining film. Writer Scott Lobdell and director Christopher B. Landon blend together the time loop premise made famous in the Bill Murray classic Groundhog Day with the horror/thriller tropes from pretty much every teen slasher flick. Thankfully it manages to avoid the outrageous gore so beloved of contemporary horror, as well as the queasy hand-held approach of found-footage films.

Tree’s moral awakening, while played in some ways for laughs, gives the film an emotional depth, especially as we see why she has become the person she is, which, while not excusing her behaviour, does at least make it understandable and her more sympathetic.

In this respect the movie echoes not only Groundhog Day, but other films that have a time loop, such as the superb 2014 Tom Cruise sci-fi actioner Edge of Tomorrow or Before I Fall, a teen drama from earlier this year. These movies have a similar, healthy morality of one person improving themselves, thus giving the audience a chance to reflect on their own behaviour and choices.

A common complaint about films like Happy Death Day is that they are unoriginal and derivative. However, such criticism misses that originality is not the most important feature of a work of art. After all, a good movie is one that can be rewatched, which implies that the quality of a film is in its execution, not necessarily its premise. Shakespeare, for instance, stole his plots and characters from many different sources, but he put them together so well that they have remained popular ever since.

Moreover, the best way to learn is by doing, so the best way for filmmakers to master the craft of cinema is to make lower-budget films that allow them to get better – rather than by producing one film and then being picked to helm a ridiculously expensive blockbuster. The more decent, low-budget movies are made, the better the chance for the big budget ones to be decent.

And Happy Death Day is a decent movie – and a fun one.

Symeon J. Thompson is a member of the Film Critics’ Circle of Australia (FCCA).




























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