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HAPPY DEATH DAY is a good retro-slasher flick but Stephen King’s “1922” probably shouldn’t have been adapted…

Posted on October 24th, 2017
Posted on October 24th, 2017

by Coop Cooper

“Happy Death Day” (now in theaters) – Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) is a selfish, mean sorority girl at a Louisiana college who spends her semesters getting drunk and sleeping with random guys, all while having an affair with a married professor. After a particularly wild night, Tree wakes up on her birthday in the bed of a strange boy, Carter (Israel Broussard). After she spends the day insulting him, her friends and everyone who cares about her, she is brutally murdered by a masked killer. After her death, she suddenly wakes up in Carter’s bed again and repeats the same day. After she realizes what is happening, she attempts to change her routine and even fight back, but the killer is always one step ahead of her. As she begins to narrow the list of suspects, she also begins making amends to all the people she has hurt, but she soon realizes that she may not have unlimited chances to close the time loop and survive the ordeal.

Copying the formula of the meta-slasher genre that originated with “Scream” in 1996, “Happy Death Day” takes a high-concept idea and makes an entertaining and somewhat original horror/comedy out of it.

Jessica Rothe is quite a find here, carrying the entire film with a dynamic performance which takes her from mean girl to comedic foil and finally a three-dimensional sympathetic character. This role could launch her towards the A-list range so it will be interesting to see what trajectory her career takes after this. Israel Broussard almost steals the show himself as the nice guy caught in a whirlwind of murder and a budding love interest that resets everyday so that he doesn’t remember it. As Tree begins to depend on his kindness, the audience begins to rely on him as the only constant in this wild story full of twists and turns.

Speaking of twists, the story stumbles when it finally reveals the killer, but there are so many false endings, the story remains unpredictable almost up until the very end. There are also some large plot holes, but “Happy Death Day” is so entertaining, they are easy to forgive.

There is even a clever nod to the comedy classic “Groundhog Day” (1993) upon which “Happy Death Day” stole its premise from. It’s not a ground-breaking film but its success could singlehandedly resurrect the late 90’s slasher genre all over again. That’s not necessarily a good thing as the ones that followed the original “Scream” became increasingly worse with each release.

Rating: 3 and ½ out of 5

“1922” (now available on Netflix) – Thomas Jane plays Wilfred James, a stubborn and simple farmer in Hemingford Home, Nebraska who resents his crude, stubborn wife (Molly Parker) who wants to sell the farm and take their son, Henry (Dylan Schmid) to Omaha. Seeing as she owns the majority of the land the farm sits on, Wilfred talks fifteen year-old Henry into a plot to kill her so they can keep the farm and Henry can stay close to his girlfriend. Once the deed is done, their lives begin to fall apart and Wilfred becomes cursed by a plague of ravenous rats which infest the farm.

Published as a novella in his short story collection Full Dark, No Stars, I always considered“1922” to be one of Stephen King’s lesser efforts. This isn’t so much a ‘killer rat’ story as it is about guilt and bad karma. I suppose King considered this his version of “The Tell-Tale Heart”, but it really doesn’t hold a candle to Poe’s story and it doesn’t make for a memorable film adaptation either.

While Thomas Jane is a fine actor – and he does have his moments here – his bizarre bumpkin accent is extremely distracting, especially when no one else in the entire film employs a similar one. The whole film is as plodding and dull as the story it was based on, even if it does have good acting and camera work.

If Hemingford Home, Nebraska sounds familiar, it is also the hometown of another one of King’s beloved characters; Mother Abigail from “The Stand”. It’s nice that King uses the same fictional locations for his stories, and his most used location, Castle Rock, Maine will be used as the setting for “Castle Rock”, an upcoming TV series inspired by the works of King. I suppose since the recent film adaptation of “It” was such a success, King is once again a hot commodity, but that doesn’t mean even his mediocre works, or outright stinkers should be adapted as well.

Rating: 2 and ½ out of 5

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