Happy Death Day is a hybrid of Groundhog Day and a teen-slasher along the lines of Scream. Only this time, “Ghostface” has been replaced by “Babyface”. Literally!
On paper, Happy Death Day makes perfect sense. You get to keep the hot leading girl, while also getting to kill her over and over again.
And, of course, the “hot girl” is also a total bitch to everyone around her. Whether they’re nice to her or not. Equally expected is the fact that she’ll realize how badly she’s been treating people and better her ways.
First things first; I don’t like that stereotypical notion that anyone with a pretty face is automatically a bitch. I’m not saying this is what Happy Death Day is claiming anymore that Mean Girls did.
What I am saying is that Happy Death Day doesn’t push the satire and dark humor enough to make this obvious.
Also, I really liked the trailer, but it reveals way too much.
And the ringtone we hear over and over again in the trailer (50 Cent singing “Go Shorty, it’s your Birthday”) isn’t even in the actual movie. Instead, we get another song with less impact and nowhere near as recognizable.
Not the best way to start!
Some killer death scenes
What does work in Happy Death Day are the multiple death scenes Tree (or Teresa) has to endure. They’re very varied and actually entertaining. Even if we never see much blood since this is a PG-13 rated movie.
Also, the opening sequence with the Universal Studios logo is the perfect way to begin. You’ll see what I mean.
Tree is portrayed by Jessica Rothe (La La Land) and I can’t say I’m not happy with what she does. Or to put a more positive spin on it: I think Jessica Rothe does everything right. The challenge is “simply” that her character is pretty much a caricature of how many view sorority girls.
Again, this can work really well if you just allow the satire and dark humor to be obvious.
In Happy Death Day, the dark humor and satire are pretty easy to spot when it comes to the death scenes. Which again, are great!
The female portrayals, however, seem to have a more serious tone, which really irks me!
You’re oh so (stereo) typical
But, of course, there’s a hero who keeps trying to help her (even if he can’t remember). He’s played by Israel Broussard (Fear The Walking Dead) and is just an overall good guy.
Obviously, good guys do exist. But not in a vacuum where the pretty girls can’t be sweet and smart as well.
And let’s be real; If this super sweetheart of a college guy is totally crazy about the biggest bitch, who just happens to be gorgeous, then he obviously isn’t falling for her winning personality.
Basically, he’s the biggest cliché of all the teen movies; The sweet guy who’s only helping the girl because she’s pretty.
And keep in mind, he only ever knows her for a day and doesn’t see the evolution, we do. Israel Broussard (like Jessica Rothe) do the best with what they’re given to work with.
There is one big problem with having a story take place in the same day over and over again. People have to look the exact same way.
Israel Broussard, however, clearly has hair of very varying length throughout the movie, which threw me off. It literally changes from one scene to the next.
A director with horror experience
Happy Death Day was directed by Christopher Landon, who is among my favorite horror comedy directors. I mean, he did direct (and co-write) Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, which is one of my very favorite horror comedies.
Christopher Landon also took part in writing Paranormal Activity 2, 3, and 4. Then he wrote and directed the spin-off Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, which worked really well for me.
For Happy Death Day, another writer was behind the screenplay, Scott Lobdell. He’s worked mostly on TV productions in the past, but judging from this I’d say he has the chops for feature films as well.
Scott Lobdell has written a smart, funny – if not all that innovative – and violent horror comedy that ticks most boxes.
Very appropriately, this Groundhog Day-inspired horror comedy comes out on the last Friday the 13th of 2017. Perfect.
However, in my opinion, this movie feels like it would’ve been a better fit for Netflix. A huge audience who can enjoy it at home, since the big screen experience isn’t necessary.
Happy Death Day premieres in US theaters on October 13, 2017.
Director: Christopher Landon
Writer: Scott Lobdell
Cast: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine, Rachel Matthews, Charles Aitken
A college student relives the day of her murder over and over again. Complete with both its unexceptional details and terrifying end. This will continue until she discovers the identity of her killer.