Director – Christopher Landon
Cast – Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine, Charles Aitken, Laura Clifton, Jason Bayle, Rob Mello, Rachel Matthews
Release Year – 2017
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Aside from Get Out and It, Happy Death Day is actually one of the few 2017 horror films I was really excited to see. Had I not seen the trailer, which immediately hooked me, I probably would have been turned off by the name and taken even longer to see it. It’s Groundhog Day tactic of the protagonist reliving the same day over and over is an idea I welcome to the genre as I had loads of fun with Edge of Tomorrow, which has a similar theme. My one concern with the film was its PG-13 rating maybe holding it back, and that is somewhat the case. While it could have delivered more on the goods, Happy Death Day is a fun experience thanks to it’s off-the-wall storyline.
Tree Gelbman is your typical self-centered sorority girl who forces everyone around her to live on “her” time. When she wakes up in a stranger’s bed after a night of hard boozing, the birthday girl gets the eerie feeling she has lived this day before. Sure enough, she is right. As she makes her way through the day she is killed by a masked killer, only to wake up in the stranger’s bed…again. Death after death leaves her with the realization that in order to survive the day she must figure out who is trying to killer her and stop them at all costs.
Writer Scott Lobdell does a solid job making this an engaging experience. He isn’t known as a writer, but he does have an interesting claim to fame – he is the creator of the X-MEN animated series I grew up watching. Anyway, he kicks things off fairly quickly, giving us a brisk look at the selfish, egotistical life Tree lives before the first kill occurs about 15 minutes in. Her waking up in a stranger’s bed is the baseline for the entertainment, as what is initially a hush-hush mistake turns into a comical act when she is forced to constantly relive it. I was glad to see the writer include the stranger, named Carter, as someone who eventually becomes a strong supporting character. The extreme majority of the film centers around the simple tactic of Tree waking up and starting each day over with more knowledge than the last. She uses each death to learn more and more about her killer and employs trial and error to come up with a solution. I enjoyed watching this as it allowed me to put myself in her shows and wonder how I would handle such a situation. And, in true slasher fashion, we are treated to a shocking reveal of the killer’s identity during the climax.
Director Christopher Landon succeeds at giving fans what we expect to receive – a fun experience. Sure I would have liked to see more gore. Actually there really isn’t any gore at all. The kills are tame and were it not for the partying and almost-nudity this probably could have passed for a hard PG. There is at least one kill that is pretty slick, and it was ruined for me thanks to the last trailer I saw. I did enjoy the look of the killer, who donned a simple yet creepy mask. This killer uses employs an assortment of sharp objects to deliver the kills, but sadly we don’t see many of the kills take place on screen. The direction results in some decent tension, but without the goods delivered it’s mostly a tease. Anyway, blah executes the story to bring on some good laughs, charming character play, and adolescent tones without this feeling teeny.
Overall, Happy Death Day is a fun flick that is ultimately held back by a tame story. While I enjoyed this story, it does not have much kick to it and it shows in the end.