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February 26, 2018 | by  | in Arts Film | [ssba]

Universities in Film or, What University (Really) Isn’t Like

The Old: The Riot Club (2014)


Take a bunch of wealthy boys, put them in an alcohol-fuelled situation, and give them absolutely no repercussions for their actions. What could go wrong?

2014’s The Riot Club is a misinformed attempt at a cautionary tale. Two new Oxford College boys are invited to join the ‘Riot Club’ – an exclusive gentlemen’s club whose main goal seems to be terrible to everyone not like them. The majority of the film is set in a dinner venue where the boys get totally pissed, sexually harass the only women in the film, and fight the owners of the establishment.

The issue with The Riot Club is that no-one is likeable. While we do have the new initiates to the club – Miles and Alistair – as some form of audience avatar, it quickly becomes impossible to distinguish them from the rest of the morass. Every member of the Riot Club is completely filthy, too wealthy for their own good, and despicable. There is no ‘save the cat’ moment, there is no reason to like them, they just exist as unsympathetic assholes with god complexes. They don’t even really get their comeuppance in the end, which is the only thing that would have been satisfying.

It is very obvious that this film is meant to be satirical, that we’re supposed to look at it as some form of warning. However, the men in this piece have wealthy and/or important people as their parents, thus they avoid repercussions from their actions. Although this lack of a satisfying conclusion is probably quite accurate to real life, this film just plays out as a wealthy mastubatory fantasy without it.

The New: Happy Death Day (2017)


Tree’s life will end. And end. And end. And end – at least until she finds a way to stop it.

Take Groundhog Day, add a sprinkling of Legally Blonde, and some really ropey bits of dialogue and you’ve got 2017’s Happy Death Day.

Tree, our heroine, is a bitchy sorority girl with nothing to prove. She goes about her day harassing people, sleeping with her professors, and causing trouble, until she is murdered that night during her birthday party.

However, she wakes again that morning, doomed to repeat the same day over and over until she finds her murderer. Through escaped criminals, wild goose chases, and a creep in a baby mask, Tree grows as a person, and becomes someone that is easy to like.

While Happy Death Day is a slasher film that is essentially bloodless, the humour and eccentricity of the plot make up for the lack of scares. It doesn’t take itself too seriously – which is helpful, considering the premise – and takes time to almost parody the ‘dumb sorority girl’ stock characters that we see in so many other horror films.   

It’s a light horror movie that’s fun to watch, and while it may make you jump at times, it won’t leave you hiding behind the couch. Happy Death Day even gives us some half-baked life lessons at time – making friends with new people isn’t necessarily a bad thing, walking alone at night is inadvisable, and accepting food from your bitchy mates might be a bad idea.

(I wouldn’t recommend murdering anyone in your first week of uni, though).


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