4 Shots From 4 Films: Get Out, Happy Death Day, It, The Ritual

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

This October, we’re using 4 Shots From 4 Films to look at some of the best years that horror has to offer!

4 Shots From 4 2017 Horror Films

Get Out (2017, dir by Jordan Peele)

Happy Death Day (2017, dir by Christopher Landon)

It (2017, dir by Andy Muschietti)

The Ritual (2017, dir by David Bruckner)

Film Review: Happy Death Day 2U (dir by Christopher B. Landon)

I have to admit that, when I first heard that Blumhouse was going to be producing a sequel to 2017’s Happy Death Day, I wasn’t surprised.  After all, every successful horror film gets a sequel.  That’s just the way the business work.  However, I will admit to being very skeptical.

I mean, the first film was a genuinely clever and witty mix of Groundhog Day and Scream.  It was often laugh-out-loud funny and, in a perfect world, Jessica Rothe’s lead performance as Tree Geldman would have been nominated for, at the very least, a Golden Globe.  It was also a surprisingly effective horror film.  The Baby Face Killer was as frightening as she was ludicrous.  Still, at the end of the film, it was hard not to feel that Tree’s story was finished.  When I heard there was a sequel, I was like, “What?  Is she going to start reliving a second day with a new killer over and over again?”

Well, it turns out that I was partially correct about the plot but I was pretty much wrong in my skepticism.  This is a sequel that works surprisingly well.

In Happy Death Day 2U, Tree once again finds herself having to live September 18th over and over again.  However, this time, it’s not just so Tree can become a better human being and discover who is targeting her.  This time, we actually find out why Tree ended up stuck in that time loop in the first place.  It turns out that Carter’s (Israel Broussard, returning from the first film) roommate, Ryan (Phil Vu), has built some sort of experimental quantum reactor and, whenever it’s turned on, it can create time loops and send people to alternate realities.  It’s all very science-y and director Christopher B. Landon is smart enough not to spend too much time lingering over all the details.  Everyone in the film agrees that quantum reactor does what they say that it does and that’s really all we need to know.

Anyway, Tree is once again reliving her birthday but now, she’s reliving it in an alternate reality.  That means that there’s a bunch of little difference to deal with.  For one thing, even though someone is still determined to kill her, it’s no longer her roommate, Lori (Ruby Modine).  For another thing, Carter is now dating the wonderfully shallow Danielle (Rachel Matthews).  Perhaps the biggest change of all is that Tree’s mother (played by Missy Yager) is still alive in this alternate reality.

Not wanting to lose her mother for a second time, Tree decides that she wants to stay in this new reality.  But, to do this, the time loop that was opened by the big science thing needs to be closed.  Otherwise, Tree is going to be doomed to keep reliving the same day over and over again….

And it get even more complicated from there.  Happy Death Day 2U is an extremely busy film, mixing Back To The Future-style science fiction with the Groundhog Day/slasher film plot of the first film.  And yet, surprisingly, the sequel actually works really well.  If the first film was a horror film with elements of comedy, this sequel is a straight-out comedy that cheerfully satirizes both the horror and the science fiction genres.

Jessica Rothe gives another wonderful performance in the lead role.  Her fury upon discovering that she’s going to have to relive September 18th all over again is both funny and relatable.  The film’s emotional heart is found in Tree’s relationship with her mother and the scene where Tree discovers that she now has pictures that document years of new memories with her mom is wonderfully played Rothe and is one of the best in the film.  That scene brought tears to my mismatched eyes.  I lost my mom a little over ten years ago so, in that moment, it didn’t matter that there was a Babyface Killer out there or that there was some sort of quantum reactor doing something.  At that moment, I knew exactly what Tree was feeling and the movie’s emotions became very real.

Happy Death Day 2U took me by surprise.  While it may not have the freshness of the first film (and really, that’s to be expected when it comes to sequels), it’s still a heartfelt and entertaining mix of comedy, horror, and science fiction.  Unfortunately, it did not duplicate the first film’s box office success so it may be the final Death Day film.

Then again, Tree’s earned a few days off….

Horror Film Review: Happy Death Day (dir by Christopher B. Landon)

So, imagine this.

You’re a college student.  You’re a member of a sorority.  You start your day by waking up in a stranger’s bed, with a hangover.  When you walk across campus, you blow off the girl trying to get you to sign her anti-climate change petition.  When you get back to your sorority house, you’re rude to her roommate and refuse to eat the birthday cupcake that she made for you.  You body shame a girl at lunch.  You’re sleeping with one of your professors.  You’re rude to your father.  You’re going to a party.

Oh!  And did I mention that you’re in a slasher film and that there’s a really creepy figure wearing a baby mask who is following you around?

Seriously, you are so dead.

That’s the situation that Theresa “Tree” Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) finds herself in 2017’s Happy Death Day.  It’s her birthday and, unfortunately, she’s murdered at the end of it.  Of course, if you’ve ever seen in a slasher film, it’s not a shock when Tree dies.  She’s the quintessential self-centered girl who always gets killed in these type of movies.

(For the record, I would probably die within the first ten minutes of any slasher film.)

However, in Tree’s case, she gets another chance.  And then another one after that.  And then, another one after that… every night, Tree dies.  Every morning, Tree wakes up in the dorm room of Carter Davis (Israel Broussard) and she has to relive the last day of her life all over again.

To the film’s credit, it doesn’t take long for Tree to realize that she’s in a time loop.  (Also, to the film’s credit, Carter specifically points out that Tree’s story sounds exactly like the plot of Groundhog Day.  “What’s that?” Tree asks.  Carter explains that it’s a film with Bill Murray.  “Who’s Bill Murray?” Tree replies.)  Once Tree figures out that she’s going to have to keep living the same day over and over again, she sets out trying not to die.  She doesn’t go to the party but that just means that the killer comes to her.  She tries to spend a day barricaded in her dorm room, just to find that the killer is hiding in a corner.  She follows the various suspects around as they go about their day.  It seems like no matter what she does, she can’t keep the killer from catching her.

On the plus side, as a result of having to deal with the same crap over and over again, she does become a better person.  She’s less rude and condescending.  She grows more confident in herself and stops worrying so much about what everyone else is going to think about her.  Of course, becoming a better person isn’t going to do her much good if she keeps dying every night….

Happy Death Day is a clever combination of horror and comedy.  It’s a movie that’s smart enough not take itself too seriously.  Even when Tree becomes a nicer person, both the character and the film retain their sarcastic edge.  Even when she learns to face the world with positivity and happiness, the film seems to be gently mocking the ease by which film characters can go from being self-centered to thoroughly altruistic.  Meanwhile, the killer may be frightening but again, the film mines plenty of dark humor from the character’s pure determination.  No matter Tree does, that killer eventually shows up.

It’s a precarious balancing act, trying to be scary and funny at the same time.  Fortunately, Happy Death Day benefits from a clever script and a good lead performance from Jessica Rothe.  Rothe gives an intelligent and empathetic performance as Tree.  It’s impossible not to sympathize with her frustration as she wakes up to discover that she has to go through the exact same day yet again.  It’s a sign of the strength of Rothe’s performance that you sympathize with Tree even before she becomes a nicer person.

Happy Death Day is a clever film and one that I’m surprised to say I missed when it was originally released.  If you also missed it, now’s a great time to catch it!

Blade Runner 2049 wins in New Mexico!

Yesterday, the New Mexico Film Critics Association named their picks for the best of 2017!  They also became the first group to pick Blade Runner 2049 as the best film of 2017.

Here are their winners:

Best Picture
Winner: “Blade Runner 2049”
Runner Up: “Lady Bird:

Best Director
Winner: Greta Gerwig, “Lady Bird”
Runner Up: Denis Villeneuve, “Blade Runner 2049”

Glenn Strange Honorary Awards

  • Glenn Close
  • Olivia De Haviland
  • John Carpenter
  • David Lynch

Best Actor
Winner: Sam Elliot, “The Hero”
Runner Up: James Franco, “The Disaster Artist”

Best Actress
Winner: Jennifer Lawrence, “mother!”
Runner Up: Jessica Rothe, “Happy Death Day”

Best Supporting Actress
Winner: Catherine Kenner, “Get Out”
Runner Up: Maryana Spivak, “Loveless”

Best Supporting Actor
Winner: Harrison Ford, “Blade Runner 2049”
Runner Up: Ewen Bremner, “Trainspotting II”

Best Ensemble
Winner: “Raw”
Runner Up: “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”

Best Original Screenplay
Winner: “November”
Runner Up: “Lady Bird”

Best Adapted Screenplay
Winner: “The Disaster Artist”
Runner Up: “Call Me By Your Name”

Best Animated Film
Winner: “Loving Vincent”
Runner Up: “The Breadwinner”

Best Foreign Language Film
Winner: “November” (Estonia)
Runner Up: “BPM” (France)

Best Editing
Winner: “November”
Runner Up: “Blade Runner 2049”

Best Cinematography
Winner: “Blade Runner 2049”
Runner Up: “Song of Granite”

Best Music/Score
Winner: “The Shape of Water”
Runner Up: “mother!”

Best Production Design
Winner: “Blade Runner 2049”
Runner Up: “The Shape of Water”

Best Documentary
Winner: “City of Ghosts”
Runner Up: “Faces Places”

Best Young Actor/Actress
Winner: Garance Mirillier, “Raw”
Runner Up: Sophia Lillis, “It”

Best Original Song
Winner: “The Misery of Love” from “Call Me By Your Name”
Runner Up: “Prayers for this World” from “Cries from Syria”