Happy Death Day (2017)}

One from the to watch pile…

Happy Death Day (2017)

Film: It is occasionally pretty cool when a film takes inspiration from another source, and extends its ideas out to make it its own. Sure it could be a travesty, it when it works it can be interesting. This film is one of those time-loop styled stories which you can tell immediately from the opening of the film, with Universal’s titles, which suggests it with a not-so-subtle hint of playing over and over a few times.

This film is directed by Christopher Landon who has a smart eye of being able to combine genres as could be told with his Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, here joining horror, time-loop scifi and collegiate-styled, John Hughes-ian teen comedies. His advantage here is a smart script by comic writer, Scott Lobdell, who created the mutant team Generation X, as well as writing other titles such as Alpha Flight, Fantastic Four, Teen Titans and Red Hood and the Outlaws.

Sorority sister Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) is, to put it bluntly, an absolute bitch. She wakes up one morning in the bed of Carter (Israel Broussard), on a day which happens to be her birthday, and prepares for the walk of shame back to her sorority house. At the end of the day, whilst walking to a party, she is murdered… and then wakes up back at the beginning of the day, and very quickly realises… well, after living and dying in the same day several times… that the only way to move on to the next day is to solve her own murder.

During the course of her birthday, we are introduced to a bunch of people who could be responsible: The bitter ex-lover, the hateful sorority sister, the friendly sorority sister whom she disrespects, the wife of the professor she’s bonking, her disappointed father and just so many others… but who is it?

That’s the mystery, and can Tree discover who it is before her lives run out?

The film is a pastiche of Groundhog Day, Mean Girls and every slasher film ever made, especially Scream as we see our masked villain is of the human variety, and can be hurt, and not an unstoppable Michael/ Jason type.

Typically with these sorts of ‘groundhog day’ films, everything you see happen and every movement made by various actors is really quite deliberate so it can be easily replicated on each new pass and honestly, the over exaggeration of some of the players is a touch blatant, to the point of distraction, but honestly that’s my only criticism of the film.

Those who love a bloody, gory slasher may be disappointed as this film isn’t one of those at all. The kills aren’t inventive, though they are sometimes surprising, but this film is more about the victim than the blood.

I have to give a specific shout out to Jessica Rothe who plays her role brilliantly, and wasn’t afraid of her character going from total glamourpuss to horrendously dishevelled victim. The character gets weaker every time she is killed so her appearance suffers.

Derivative with its idea but innovative with its execution, Happy Death Day is a thrilling, intriguing and funny version of a cinematic trope that has a nice bunch of twist and turns, and even pays direct tribute to the film that obviously inspired it, Groundhog Day.

Score: ****1/2

Format: Happy Death Day was reviewed with the Australian multi-region Bluray which runs for approximately 96 minutes. As one would expect from a modern film, both the 2.40:1 image and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Score: *****

Extras: The disc opens with previews for Pacific Rim Uprising and Pitch Perfect 3 before hitting the menu screen. The other extras are:

Alternate Ending is just what the title would suggest it is and it’s an amusing alternative, but they definitively went with the right one.

Deleted Scenes, as usual, are an interesting distraction but the film ultimately benefits without them.

Worst Birthday Ever looks at the aspects of the ‘time-loop’ movie.

Behind the Mask: The Suspects looks at all the potential perpetrators of the crime, and the design of the killer’s mask.

The Many Deaths of Tree isn’t about the destruction of the rainforests, but instead about the various ways in which Tree dies through the film.

Unfortunately none of the extras last very long.

Score: ***

WISIA: This movie was great and I can’t wait to watch it again.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016) Review

One from the to watch pile…
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)


Film:  

A few years ago, the cool literary thing to do was to take a classic piece of literature, mix it with elements of horror and turn it into an amusing variation on the original text. The first of these was when Quirk Books’ editor Jason Redulak approached Seth Graeme-Smith with the title and idea of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies; the concept being taking Jane Austin’s public domain book and ‘remastering’ it with elements of a zombie apocalypse.

The idea took off, and a glut of like-minded sequels and imitators emerged, but this one stood out with its ability to maintain the ‘proper’ elements of Austin’s text with a refreshing tongue-in-cheekiness. It maintains the themes of the original, and the addition of the zombie apocalypse somehow fits seamlessly.

Of course, it was only a matter of time before it was adapted to the cinematic form, and what a victory it is!

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is set in England in the early 1800s, after a time where the undead have returned to life. Of course, proper society must prevail, but everyone; men, women and children, are taught combative ways to defend themselves and their families against the undead.


Our tale is of Elizabeth Bennett (Lily James) and her four sisters who reside on a country estate with their parents, and are well trained with gun, sword and in Chinese martial arts. Her mother has a fascination with making sure all her daughters marry well so they can be ‘taken care of’, but Elizabeth is a strong willed girl who resists.

She meets a well versed, and austere zombie killer named Colonel Darcy (Sam Riley) whom she immediately dislikes, but even more so after she meets an ex-friend of his, Lt George Wickham (Jack Hutson) who tells her tales of bastardry performed by Darcy upon him.

Wickham shows Elizabeth that the zombies aren’t all they seem, and that perhaps mankind can live alongside zombiekind, but wherever she goes, Darcy seems to show up, but is it accidental, or is he quite taken with Elizabeth?

Also, attacks by zombies seems to be coming more frequent… Is it just a coincidence, or is someone organising them to attack the living?

I must admit to having a lot of trouble reviewing this film as whilst I totally enjoy the zombie aspect of it, and it is quite funny, I wasn’t sure if it was a horror film, but instead a parody. Eventually I told my brain to shut up, and just flowed along its river.

The action and effects are great, though those who hate CGI for hates sake will probably criticise the blood splattering effects. The fighting is all well choreographed and played with great comedy timing, and the zombie make up is fantastic.

The zombie mythos within the confines of the story are a nice breath of fresh air over the usual ‘get bit and eat shit’ style. These zombies can maintain a sense of humanity, as long as they don’t eat human brains, which is a nice change from the modern day World War Z styled zombies who instantly turn into a berserk enraged hunger monster, which is just not what a proper educated zombie would do!


The casting is perfect as well, and all the girls (Bella Heathcoate, Suki Waterhouse, Millie Brady and Ellie Bamber) are played as coquettish as they should, and are all beautiful. The men are mostly square-jawed and bold, and the Bennett parents, played by Charles Dance and Sally Phillips are the perfect straight man and stooge. A special acknowledgement has to made of Lena Heady as zombie fighting heroine Lady Catherine De Bourgh who plays the tough type in the fashion she always does.


Truly the hero of the casting in that of ex-Doctor Who Matt Smith. His portrayal of the foppish Parson Collins, whom has hopes of making Elizabeth his bride,is so effeminate and precious that it would have made Hugh Grant jealous. Truly here he nailed a positively hilariously ‘English’ character.

All in all this film was a real fun and enjoyable watch, but is hardly a horror film. It really is a period drama that happens to have zombies in it.

Score: ***1/2

Format: This review was done with the Australian release, region B bluray. The image is presented in 2.40:1 with a DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, and both are impeccable.

Score: *****

Extras: Heaps of extras on this disc. First, there is a blooper reel, and a few unnecessary deleted scenes, and then we get to the meat of the disc.


Creating the Unmentionables looks at the design and execution of the zombies.

From Austin to Zombies: Adapting a Classic is not just about adapting the book to the film, but also how it was completely necessary to keep the ‘Austin-ness’ to it for it to efficiently work.

Mr Collins Line-O-Rama gives Matt Smith the limelight as he delivers and re-delivers several of his lines.

The Badass Bennett Sisters looks at the development of the various fighting styles of the actresses playing the Bennett sisters.

Courtship, Class and Carnage: Meet the Cast looks at the cast choices of the film.

Score: ****

WISIA: It’s charming, so I can see myself watching it again.

A Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015) Review

One from the to watch pile…
The Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015)


Film: When a moronic, tryhard janitor accidentally starts the zombie apocalypse, only those skilled at survival even stand the slightest chance of getting by.

Thankfully, scouting offers one all the right tools and skills to make it!

Our tale follows the exploits of the only three members of scout troop 264: the keen and excitable Augie (Joey Morgan), motormouth Carter (Logan Miller) and nice guy Ben (Tye Sheridan) who after cutting short an overnight scout trip to go to a secret high school senior’s party find themselves in a town that empty except for zombies and a hot cocktail waitress named Denise (Sarah Dumont) who is as tough as nails, has the longest legs in the history of mankind and is a shotgun diva… Literally. 


The kids at the secret party, including Carter’s sister (and Ben’s secret crush) Kendall (Halston Sage) don’t know what has happened to the rest of the town, and our heroes find themselves with a time limit to save the partygoers when they discover the entire town is going to be bombed by the military to contain the ‘zombie problem’. 

So what do scout’s do when they face the zombie apocalypse? Why improvise, of course… Let’s just hope that zombiefied Scout Leader Rogers (David Koechner) doesn’t catch up with them…

In general I am not a fan of the term ‘horror comedy’ as I don’t believe the two elements sit together at all because I want my horror to be, well, horrible: I want to be scared by it… And realistically, whenever we talk about ‘horror comedies’ we are referring more to either a comedy with monsters, or a gore-comedy. Films like Return of the Living Dead, Re-Animator and Shaun of the Dead nail both those descriptions perfectly, and I reckon I’d put this film in with those three comfortably, though it would certainly be the lesser of them, as whilst it appealed to my love of gory movies, it also tickled my less mature delight towards dumb, dick, tit and fart joke comedies.

Basically, if the Goonies grew up to be the kids from Superbad and had to fight Shaun of the Dead zombies in the town Monster Squad took place in, that contained a strip club that someone like Porky would own, this would be their story. 

Phew!


It’s not very often that a film can be both laugh out loud at the comedy one second, and cringe with empathy at an act of violence the next. The writers, Lona Williams, Carrie Evans and Emi Mochizuki and director Christopher Landon (who also has a script credit) really nailed the balance well, and once it gets underway, the movie never stops for a breather. The four main actors nail their stereotypes perfectly, and parody them well too, but they are also well rounded characters, with back stories and histories that are touched on but never to the detriment or the movement of the story.

In the extras the crew regularly comment that they are trying to get that eighties teen sex comedy feel and that is done well, but the tributes to other horror are there also. The film takes Romero’s tropes of residual zombie memory and turns it on its head, and also nods to Dr Tongue from Day of the Dead (in a scene that echoes Reanimator’s head-giving-head scene, but with more tongue), and did I see a road sign showing how far away Haddonfield was?


I can’t finish this review without mentioning that the wonderful Cloris Leachman makes an appearance as a very cranky old cat lady and really steals the few scenes in which she appears.

Essentially, the sophomoric humour lover and gore hound in me really loved this film, and if you like films that don’t take themselves too seriously, you will probably get a kick out of this.

Score: ****

Format: The review copy of this film was the Australian bluray release, which runs for approximately 92 minutes, and is presented in an immaculate 2.39:1 image with a matching DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack.

Score: *****

Extras: A nice bunch of extras on this disc, and with titles reminiscent of my Cub Scout days…


Scout’s Guide to Filmmaking is you normal ‘making of’ mini-doc but the personalities of the filmmakers and the cast make it quite entertaining. Sure there’s the usual mutual-masturbation ‘oh he/she’s SO good’ stuff, but it doesn’t come across as fake, they actually seem genuine.

The Zombie Make-up FX Handbook is all about the practical and CGI zombie effects. I love these sorts of extras as I’ve always had an interest in make up effects.

Undead Movement Guidelines: Zombie Choreography takes a look at the work done by choreographer Mark Steger who taught the cast and extras how to ‘move’ like a ‘real’ zombie. His concepts of these zombies being quick because they are fresh, rather than the slow, disinterred old dead was interesting.

Uniforms and You: Costume Design shows us the skill of the costume designer Marylou Lim and the subtleties of some of the costuming, and how they individualised the zombies.

There’s only two Deleted Scenes: extended Scouting video and Pharmacy. They certainly aren’t missed in the film.

Score: ****

WISIA: A Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is a gory and funny movie with a lot of personality so I can definitely see me watching it again.