Tag Archives: horror comedy

And Many More…

Happy Death Day

by Hope Madden

It’s funny how long it took people to rip off the Groundhog Day conceit—20 years, basically. No one really revisited the “day on repeat” idea (Source Code came close, but it wasn’t a full day) until Tom Cruise’s surprisingly high-quality 2014 flick Edge of Tomorrow.

It took twenty years to redo it once, and yet I’ve seen at least 9 of these this year. OK, I’ve seen two (Happy Death Day, Before I Fall) and am aware of two others (Naked, Premature). Still, that’s a lot. It’s like sitting through the same events over and over and over and over again with no idea why it’s happening or how to make it stop.

Happy Death Day does what it can to make up for its lacking originality with a tight pace and compelling lead performance.

Tree (Jessica Rothe) wakes up on her birthday in some rando’s dorm room with no memory of the night before, a raging hangover and an attitude. She’s murdered that night by a knife-wielding marauder in a plastic baby mask, only to wake up back in that same dorm room under that same They Live poster.

Repeat ad nauseam.

It doesn’t take too many déjà vu mornings before Tree decides there is a mystery to solve here and just like that, we’re off in Phil Connors territory: reliving the same day again and again gives you the chance to become a better person, right?

If, like Tree, you are unaware of Groundhog Day, Phil Connors is the Bill Murray character doomed to relive February 2 until he…well, if you haven’t seen it I don’t want to ruin it for you. But the fact that Happy Death Day addresses the groundhog in the room is part of its self-aware, played-for-comedy charm.

Rothe boasts strong comic timing and a gift for physical comedy, a skill that transitions nicely to the demands of being repeatedly victimized by a slasher.

Director Christopher Landon (Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse) wisely mines Scott Lobdell’s screenplay for laughs. Given the repetitive, bloodless nature of the kills, trying to generate scares would have been a tough go.

The mystery absolutely does not hold up, red herrings are silly and fairly pointless, and whatever charm the filmmakers infuse into this recycled premise wears off just a tad before the credits roll. Still, there are funny bits and clever moments peppered throughout what is easily this year’s best Groundhog Day ripoff.

Do Not Stop in Willits

Welcome to Willits

by Alex Edeburn

In their debut feature, Trevor and Tim Ryan welcome us to the backwoods of Northern California where the weed, meth and aliens are bountiful and the yokels are creepy. The town of Willits—known as the Gateway to the Redwoods—attracts a young group of hikers looking to enjoy a weekend in the woods, who only get lost and spend the night near a cabin shared by a pair of strung-out conspiracy theorists.

Brock (Bill Sage) and Peggy (Sabina Gadeki) believe aliens are after the powerful batch of crystal meth the two have been cooking and smoking. “Emerald Ice,” as the locals call it, brings on intense hallucinations, exposing the user to the nefarious creatures visiting Earth, and in some cases, inhabiting human bodies.

Brock has no other option than to stand his ground and fend off the aliens he can only see through meth-tinted glasses. This proves problematic for our unsuspecting hikers when they eventually find themselves in Brock’s crosshairs.

The comedy of the film mainly relies on lazy stoner-humor courtesy of Possum, played by Rory Culkin. A Willits local who tags along with the hikers, Possum also provides the explanation for the UFO sightings and other spooky happenings around the town. Except his “explanation” is more of a half-assed paraphrasing of an Ancient Aliens episode.

The central question of the film: Does “Emerald Ice” actually expose the hidden truth about aliens, or are these visions part of a drug-induced psychosis? The narrative attempts to answer this by setting characters on a collision course with butchery. It’s a nice idea that just doesn’t work out since scenes with lost hikers or a homicidal Brock are too short for us to feel invested.

Given the cavalcade of circumstances, the premise seems promising for a science-fiction/horror romp. But the lack of tension and careless writing cripple a film that could have been frightening and fun.

If you’re looking for something with scares and laughs, try watching conspiracy theories on YouTube before watching this movie.


Two Bloody Kiwis For Your Queue

New Zealand has a distinguished history in horror-comedy (well, as distinguished as that category gets). Long before Hobbits and dragons, kiwi Peter Jackson filled New Zealand cinemas with laughs and screams while covering their screens in blood and body fluids. The torch has been passed to Gerard Johnstone, whose Housebound releases for home viewing today. A funny, clever, heart-racing horror flick about a potentially haunted house, it’s among the very best of the genre released this year.

Naturally, you’ll want to pair this with something from Jackson’s goofy, bloody past. May we suggest Dead Alive? A Sumatran rat monkey, young love, overbearing mothers, sketchy uncles, and a positively inspired use of a lawnmower come together in Jackson’s very best and most entertaining horror film.