If the premise for “Happy Death Day” sounds eerily similar a certain Bill Murray comedy where a man has to re-live the same day over and over, it’s not you. “Happy Death Day” is unofficially a remake of said movie but with a murder mystery injected for good measure. The thing about “Happy Death Day” is that it knows it’s literally a redoing of “Groundhog Day.” Seriously, it literally stops to acknowledge the fact that we’re watching a modern re-imagining of a sort. Not that that hinders the experience of “Happy Death Day” thankfully. Through and through it’s mediocre, but it charms as an engaging coming of age romance painted in the shade of a horror comedy.
At best I’d say that “A Witches’ Ball” is a serviceable movie. It’s exactly the kind of movie you’d find at Walmart one day that you’d probably buy for your daughter in hopes of distracting her with a fantasy while you’re preparing for dinner or something. It’s mediocre and hits about all the right beats for a movie heavily aimed toward small girls. Director Justin G. Dyck is a man whose entire filmography revolves around filming cheaply made, holiday oriented, family films and “A Witches’ Ball” s right up his alley.
McG’s newest film tries to be everything for everyone. And while it doesn’t always work, I loved “The Babysitter” for being so self aware most of the time. It’s not just a horror comedy about a really hot babysitter who turns out to be a Satanist, but it’s also a film packed with heart. It’s about growing up, learning to conquer your fears and insecurities, and learning that in life you have to take your lumps instead of finding the easy way out. Don’t get me wrong, “The Babysitter” is a fun and demented horror comedy, but it’s also a stellar coming of age film, as well. Writer Brian Duffield successfully conceives a slew of characters that learn something about each other and come to some kind of self realization.
Andrés Muschietti’s “It” has proven in a year of really bad Stephen King adaptations, that it is very possible to put one of King’s most popular novels on screen and remind us once again why King is King. Muschietti, like Tommy Lee Wallace before him, has the daunting task of compressing an eleven hundred page novel in to what will end up being a five hour epic. Yet, “It” manages to come out mostly unscathed as a film that is both a spooky horror film and a stellar coming of age drama. Much like “Mama,” Muschietti’s work on “It” ends in a film that can be appreciated as a human drama and a pure horror movie packed with heart, scares, insight in to growing up in an unforgiving, cruel world.
There’s a considerable drop off in quality with “Teen Wolf Too” with what is essentially the same movie with a premise that was cut and pasted. Michael J. Fox opted out of this follow up, setting the stage for the film debut of Jason Bateman, who took the first and last sequel of this oddly popular series. I remember watching this movie as a kid quite often, since the channel I always watched never had the original. Years later, “Teen Wolf Too” isn’t a very good movie, and as a follow up should be watched by fans that are either Jason Bateman fanatics, or absolutely have to watch every sequel of a movie series. Hey, it’s not as bad as any of “The Howling” sequels. That’s about as big an endorsement I’m wiling to give it.
Before it became a homoerotic horror series on MTV, “Teen Wolf” was the epitome of eighties cheese that mixed a teen coming of age comedy with horror tropes. The idea of being a werewolf is of course a metaphor for puberty, as Michael J. Fox takes a baffling but oddly fun turn in his career after the success of “Back to the Future.” The 1985 “Teen Wolf” hasn’t aged very well, but it’s still a fun novelty of the decade where almost nothing was off limits it meant possibly drawing a laugh. Surely, the idea of a werewolf becoming a star basketball player is absurd, but not offensive as a comedy based around a corpse, or a college student wearing black face. But I digress.
For folks experiencing zombie fatigue, “Dead Shack” might be the small movie that cures your unrest for the sub-genre. Director-writer Peter Ricq and co-writers Philippe Ivanusic, Davila LeBlanc twist conventions rather well while also introducing a dashing but complex horror villain to boot. “Dead Shack” is a fun and very funny mix of genres that has a good time implementing the zombie sub-genre without bogging the entire movie down in typical cinematic tropes and heavy handed overtones. The zombies here are more devious plot devices that allow for a ton of gore and splatter, and director Ricq never shies away from the gooey and red stuff.