Happy Death Day review
Groundhog Day had an arrogant man trapped in a small town on the same day until he learned to appreciate those around him. Edge of Tomorrow had Tom Cruise repeating an alien invasion until he could figure a way to win it. Today’s movie has someone repeating not just their birthday, but the day that they are killed by a psychopath. I’ve mentioned before that on paper, time loop stories are a great way to get to know the person suffering the consequence of reliving the day. On camera, the trick is harder as the story has to remain consistent without being too repetitive.
The idea of someone having to repeat their birthday is an interesting one, considering that the older one gets, the less they care about the day that celebrates that. It may be a morose notion, but it’s about the college age in which people would rather draw attention on the celebration rather then the number factor. I myself celebrated my thirtieth by taking a vacation and having dinner with the family. The movie not only gives us a character who could care less that she has a birthday, but an extra layer that I wont give away. So Happy Death Day may have a little extra for the time loop story.
A snobbish college girl Theresa (played by Jessica Rothe) wakes up in the dorm room of fellow student Carter (played by Israel Broussard). Though he tries to make small talk, she leaves to go back to her sorority. She spends the day being rude and pretentious to everyone including her roommate Lori. She’s also the other girl in an affair with her professor and even ignores her fathers invitation to a birthday lunch. On her way to a party, she is stalked by a hooded figure wearing her school’s mascot image as a mask. She is killed…but wakes up the same morning…in the same dorm room of Carter.
She initially dismisses the previous night as a dream and goes on her day again…only to get killed. When she realizes she’s repeating the same day over and over, she’s suggested to use that time to follow potential suspects. Each day ends in death and summons her back to the beginning, but the twist is that with each day, she is growing weaker from the injuries. So despite the safety of the time loop, there seems to be a clock that is getting closer to midnight as Theresa is trying to solve her murder.
The whole time loop formula has been done before, but I like how Happy Death Day has used it in a horror context. Did it generate a scary movie? Well… I’d say that while it’s shot in a suspenseful tone, it doesn’t generate that many scares. I’d argue that the tone is not even full horror, but I’ll get to that in a moment. But going back to it’s use on the time loop, I think they did it well. I also like that they establish that her body is still vulnerable to damage from the murders, otherwise it would seem like there were no consequence.
I’ll say that I really enjoyed Jessica Rothe in the lead. For someone who initially has to start the film in an unlikable manner, she carries the story and really makes you want to see her redeem herself.
What the marketing seems to hide is that Happy Death Day is a part comedy. While I’m no sure why the trailers didn’t want to spoil that notion, but I laughed more then I thought I was going. Because the film is still trying to be scary, it does suffer from inconsistency. I think it would have made sense to try and be a little more funny, something in the vein of Evil Dead or Drag Me to Hell. That would at least justify the PG-13 rating that is hindering this story of it’s full potential. Those hoping for a lot of blood are not going to see it. I’ll also bet that the film war originally produced with an R rating, only to get cut down to try and get in a teenage audience. Come on! Teenagers are already aware of these kinds of college dangers. They would have been fine with an R rating.
I’ll give this four red birthday candles out of five. Happy Death Day feels like a great movie that was edited by cowards who thought they knew what was best. I doubt ill see this again as it is, but I’ll be on the lookout for a directors cut. Maybe that’ll add back in that extra violence and jokes that are apparently too much for the studio