Aki Vs. Evil: Happy Death Day and Freaky

Same director and a similar premise: Take a weird trope that’s already familiar and make them into horror films.

Spoilers.

Happy Death Day is Groundhog Day as horror. Our heroine is murdered and must investigate her own murder day after day while learning to be a better person.

Freaky is Freaky Friday as horror. Our heroine, Millie, is almost killed by a serial killer with a magical sacrificial knife, but instead these two exchange bodies.

I like both movies quite a bit. Not so much the sequel to Happy Death Day, but it’s fine – it just steers a bit too much into action territory for my liking. I know I use this descriptor all the time in this series, but these movies are fun. They use the tropes in mostly predictable ways, but they still seem fresh in this new context.

I don’t exactly know what this list would include, but I bet there’s a whiteboard somewhere on Blumhouse production offices in which they’ve brainstormed various similar often used magical realism concepts. Big? Weird Science? Back to the Future? The Jungle Book? Probably too expensive for Blumhouse’s typical approach. Porky’s doesn’t have any kind of fantasy theme, but could be ripe with possibilities for horror. There’s also been some talk of this being it’s own cinematic universe, so perhaps we’ll see a Tree / Millie crossover at some point.

While these are comedies, there are strong messages in each film. Well, as good movies should never mind the genre.

It doesn’t take long for Tree to see her former life as superficial. I guess dying and seeing those same moments over and over will make you see how meaningless they actually are. On the other hand, she also uses her situation to her advantage to try various things out which society might not appreciate, like walking nude through the campus. While her situation is bad, she lacks in desperation as she seems to have endless opportunities to figure out her situation (although that does change at some point, when she discovers that she’s worse off after each death, but that doesn’t count for much in the end). The movie seems to take a lot of shortcuts with what people know and believe, but that doesn’t really matter that much. Plotholes don’t really matter and it just makes everything easier if you don’t spend endless time dwelling on the details.

In Freaky, we have this weird kind of wish fulfillment scenario. The Butcher, in Millie’s body, kills all the people we would find bad in her life. Well, at least in her high school. The Butcher kills the teacher who has singled her out, the queen bee of the school and some jockeys who pretty much try to gangrape her. Which I guess leads me to the sexual politics of these movies. Again. Why do I always end up here?

In Freaky, the football players feel they are entitled to the girls and when Millie resists, they take it out on her, which leads to the aforementioned scene, where the The Butcher ends up killing three jockeys after they try to kill the body he inhabits. This is fine. Good fodder for a horror movie. They get punished for their deeds and while it’s Millie’s body, she’s not in control, so she hasn’t done anything wrong.

On the other hand, Tree is quite liberal in her sexuality, which is fine, but she does kind of cross the line. She is having an affair with a professor, which she regrets later on in the movie. Than again, she shouldn’t feel guilty about it. After all, she’s the less powerful one in this situation. Her professor shouldn’t be using his influence to have affairs with students. Even though she backs off in the end, she also attempts to seduce the boyfriend of her sorority sister. This latter part just makes her a sort of shitty person, but it’s not really a problematic stance, as the movie also makes it obvious that this is the bad Tree of the past (even if that past isn’t very distant in the end). There is this somewhat problematic situation though: Tree falls in love with the guy in who’s dormroom she wakes up in numerous times. The next day they are a couple according to her, but while she has spent a lot of time with him, he hasn’t spent any time with her. Of course, this also happens in Groundhog Day. Doesn’t a relationship like this get creepy? If your partner seems to know a lot about you, when you hardly know them, what would you think?

Another topic I should note is what makes these fun. In Happy Death Day the most interesting part is actually Tree’s suicide montage. Although, now that I think about it, is this from the sequel? Am I confusing the two? Anyhow, she gets very creative about it. I know it’s kind of dark to enjoy that, but that’s the nature of horror movies. I quite understand why many people tend to stay away from them.

Freaky is all about The Butcher in Millie’s body. The Butcher has a confidence Millie didn’t, so he can do things she wouldn’t. I already mentioned the wish fulfillment, but there’s more than that. Of course, as this is Hollywood, he adopts a different wardrobe and so forth. Vince Vaughn is also quite good as the teenaged girl living in a middle-aged man’s body. It can get somewhat tiresome at some points, but it does also work.

Happy Death Day 2U is less of a horror movie. It’s more of a sci-fi thing. You don’t really need it. It actually has the potential to spoil the first movie (in the sense that it can make the first movie feel worse) for you as it feels the need to explain the whole time loop. I guess you could watch it spot all the time travel tropes and homages, but that’s pretty much it. It’s not a bad movie, but also pretty unnecessary.

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