Film Review: ‘Happy Death Day’ Starring Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine
Happy Death Day is directed by Christopher Landon and is the story of a college girl whose day ends in her demise, only for her to wake up and relive the same day over and over again.
Happy Death Day is directed by Christopher Landon and stars Jessica Rothe as Tree, the college equivalent of one of the main characters in 2004’s Mean Girls or even this year’s Before I Fall, in which she is a snarky, better-than-everyone, too-hot-for-you kind of girl. It’s her birthday and she’s walking alone to a party in the evening before a someone in a baby-faced mask gets ahold of her and takes her life. Following is a jump-cut to her waking up again in the same fashion, same setting, and slowly realizing she’s reliving her birthday once again – except this time with the knowledge of what’s to come, allowing her to strategize and figure out who is behind the her murder and preventing it from happening again.
Happy Death Day is directed by Christopher Landon (known mostly for writing four of the five Paranormal Activity films)….
Just kidding. I think you get the point.
If you didn’t, this film is the horror movie equivalent of 1993’s Groundhog Day (a reference the film even makes itself by it’s end), though it’s somewhat difficult to actually classify this film as horror. To be fair, it’s actually more of a comedy, which makes the reference even more accurate. What starts out as a suspense thriller in the beginning turns into sort of a tongue-in-cheek exposé at the somewhat silly plot device of reliving the same day over and over again as Tree is trying to discover the identity of her soon-to-be killer. It becomes very self aware of what kind of film it is and I think Landon is very effective in exploiting it in a humorous way, though there is a sudden tonal shift between the first and second act that may pull the viewer out of the moment for a bit before ultimately accepting the film for what it’s about to become (and to be fair, probably what a lot may be expecting).
Despite a few flaws, my biggest problem with Happy Death Day was it being all too familiar. As mentioned above, Before I Fall came out earlier this year (review) and aside from there being a serial killer, this is the exact same movie. They both feature an attractive girl who’s used to being the center of attention and getting anything she wants that is punished by reliving the same day over and over again and forced into becoming a better person through trial and error and getting a better grasp on the meaning of life and treating people kindly. Not to mention that the reason they’re reliving the same day again and again in any of the aforementioned films is never disclosed. It’s just become a plot device to tell the same kind of story over and over again and it’s becoming lazy. I haven’t even mentioned 2015’s Edge of Tomorrow (or originally and more relevantly titled and marketed as Live Die Repeat) in which the same plot device was used, but actually has an explanation as to why it’s happening.
Ultimately, the film isn’t terrible. It just leaves something to be desired by it’s end. When the tone shifts a third of the way through, it becomes a fun and rather humorous journey to its climactic (although a bit convenient) ending. The cast is full of relatively unfamiliar faces but they do work well together in this film. The dialogue can be a bit cringey at times, but it only really stood out the most near the end as I placed my palm on my face. I think it will have a good weekend as it brings in an eager young audience and horror fans alike that are salivating for the traditional October horror movie fun.
It’s familiar, but still enjoyable.
Happy Death Day gets a C