Director: Christopher Landon
Writer: Scott Lobdell
Cast: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine, Charles Aitken, Rachel Matthews, Jason Bayle, Laura Clifton and Rob Mello
Synopsis: A college student relives the day of her murder with both its unexceptional details and terrifying end until she discovers her killer’s identity.
*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*
Slasher movies are a dime a dozen in the horror genre, however, what use to be the dominant subgenre in film has pretty much kept itself to VOD or Red Box rentals. That’s not to say the subgenre isn’t great anymore, but it’s not as good as it was back in the day – probably. That being said, you got to give props to anyone who has the gull to do a modern day slasher nowadays and give it a twist. That’s what the folks over at Blumhouse did, giving Happy Death Day the Groundhog Day treatment, and despite my early thoughts on the movie, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. However, it does misstep on a lot of areas.
The movie follows Tree (Jessica Rothe) – short of Theresa – on her birthday. She wakes up, hungover, in a dorm room that belongs to Carter (Israel Broussard), and as she leaves she comes across certain things; her father calling her, a weird guy checking her out, an activist trying to get her to sign a petition, sprinklers going off on a couple, a car alarm going off, a pledge off, an admirer, dealing with her sorority sisters and meeting with her married professor. Along with a few other things, it all comes to a head when a masked killer kills her – however, when she dies she wakes up back in Carter’s room and relives the day. Tree must then try to put the pieces together, and find out who has been trying to kill her. Lucky for her, she has an unlimited amount of lives.
Happy Death Day was not a movie was I really looking forward to, but I kept my reservation to myself and took the movie in like I do for every movie. That said, I was pleasantly surprised by the movie, but that’s not to say the movie was all that great. Happy Death Day has a pretty good concept, and I applaud writer Scott Lobdell and director Christopher Landon for fully embracing it and not making the movie too cliché. The movie does unfortunately carry some tropes with it, but the concept and the movie not trying to take itself too seriously, does help it out just a tad.
Given the concept, Jessica Rothe is left to carry the movie on her shoulders, and for the most part she carries pretty damn well. Rothe’s Tree does make bad decisions like expected, but she does bunker down to try and figure out what exactly is going on. Tree also isn’t the most likeable person either. In fact, none of the characters, with the exception of Carter and a random girl sitting outside the sorority, are terrible people and not likeable at all. It’s to be expected, but it is off putting for a while.
Although, I’m not one to complain about a movie’s rating, Happy Death Day’s rating of PG-13 doesn’t do it any favors. Which is odd, considering you can get away with a lot in PG-13 movies nowadays, and this movie could have benefited more with a hard PG-13 rating. Given the concept, I thought there would be some elaborate or even at least one creative kill, but the movie shows them off-screen, and even when they are shown, they’re very bloodless – unless you count the blood on the masked killer’s knife. I know there’s a lot of debate amongst horror fans about PG-13 and R-rated horror movies, and while I don’t need every horror movie to be rated-R, Happy Death Day could have benefited by pushing the rating, at least for one kill.
Another con I would point out is even though the movie has a brisk one hour and thirty-eight minute runtime, Happy Death Day loses some steam before the final act. However, the final act does tighten everything up. Additionally, there is one particular subplot that involves Tree that seems rather important, and hints at connecting to the overall story, but it’s never really fleshed out and feels rather weird when it’s bought up and stops the movie completely. Landon has mentioned in interviews that this would be bought up in a potential sequel, but it is rather glaring when you sit down and think about it after watching the movie.
All in all, Happy Death Day is rather entertaining, and Jessica Rothe carries the movie on her shoulders. However, Happy Death Day also has glaring and unfortunate missteps that make the movie okay as opposed to be potentially great.
Happy Death Day
3 out of 5