Every Halloween season needs a few good horror films in theaters, right? Or at least “horror films,” with a little less emphasis on the “good” part. And what better day to release a horror film than on Friday, October 13th??? Made (somewhat) in the style of Scream, Happy Death Day hit theaters on the most superstitious day of the spookiest month. Directed by Christopher Landon (who’s found his niche in horror/comedy with Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocolypse), written by Scott Lobdell, and starring Jessica Rothe and Israel Broussard, this horror/mystery/thriller/comedy-when-it-feels-like-it shows us what it could be like if we were stuck in a loop of reliving one day over and over again. .
Basically Tree (Rothe), our lovely leading sorority girl with baggage, does her bitchy-too-good-for-you thing all day on her birthday until WHOOPSIES someone kills her, and she wakes up the next day – or the same day, I suppose it would be – and relives it all like a serious case of déjà vu. And then she does it again, and again, and againandagainandagain. Someone’s clearly out to get her, and until she can figure out who, it’s LIGHTS OUT SWEETIE PIE, and the clock rewinds. Each new chance at the same day she gets, she wakes up in the dorm room of her sometimes-accomplice, Carter (Broussard). He’s a really nice guy – like way too good for her by the films stereotypical standards – and is essential to Tree eventually solving her own murder. He’s also a big part of her realization that she really doesn’t like who she’s become and wants to change that. Cheers to this obvious moral lesson that I only don’t hate because it was kinda cute and not really intended to be a mystery…!
With the exception of a few moments and lines that made me cringe, I actually enjoyed Happy Death Day quite a bit, and appreciate the structure and writing of it. Although, I had fairly low expectations to begin with.. Regardless, here’s what I thought worked: there was some set up early on in the film as to who the murderer was (not the most subtle hints by any means), but they went a different direction and made you forget about that until the very end; the way Tree handled the first time she relived her birthday (and every day after that) just seemed so appropriate and realistic; there’s a twist at the end that definitely worked in the films favor, and then there’s another twist that feels a bit like beating a dead horse for a second, until you realize it’s the perfect note to end on to match the slight tonal confusion you experience the whole film.
I definitely wish we would stop perpetuating all of the stereotypes exhibited in Happy Death Day – I know, I know, it’s probably supposed to be some snide sarcastic comment on how Hollywood keeps perpetuating these stereotypes, hence why it’s exaggerated – but it seemed like it would have been a lot of fun to make! And while it wasn’t a cinematic masterpiece by any means – I mean HELLO there are a few scenes in the diner where it’s pretty clear Carter’s hair is longer than it is in any other scene – it sure made for an entertaining night. There’s nothing that really stood out to me as note-worthily good or bad; everything just kind of rested in the “meh, it’s alright” middle zone. I do, however, think the concept was pretty interesting, and would love to see what it could look like in another, maybe slightly better film.
As they remind you at the very end of the film, so props to them, I guess?
My biggest issue with Happy Death Day is that it never fully explains (or even makes logical) why she’s stuck reliving this one day… or at least what makes it possible for that to happen. But nonetheless, I give Happy Death Day a 5/10. It gets the job done and was interesting to watch, but I’ll probably forget about it in a few weeks.
Now imagine a really annoying stereotypical sorority girl as I bid you fare-BYIEEEEEEEEEE.