Running time: 96 minutes
Director: Christopher B. Landon
Starring: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard and Ruby Modine
A college student must relive the day of her murder over and over again, in a loop that will end only when she discovers her killer’s identity.
The premise for Happy Death Day is a pretty simple one, imagine Groundhog Day retooled as a slasher movie and you’ve pretty much got it! It’s so simple you’ve gotta wonder why no one has thought of it before!
Our young protagonist, the bizarrely named Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe), wakes up on the morning of her birthday in strange boy’s dorm room and finds herself forced to endure the indignity of the dreaded ‘walk of shame’. Her Birthday goes from bad to worse when later that evening she’s brutally attacked by a masked killer and stabbed to death.
End of story: let the credits roll, but not this time because in a bizarre turn of events Tree finds herself magically respawning back to the start of the previous day and forced to relive it over and over again until she can figure out who murdered her.
Slick, but not Scary!
I genuinely didn’t expect to like this film at all, I wasn’t sold on the trailer and I’ve developed a real distain for most mainstream horror movies. I wasn’t a big fan of Andy Mushchietti’s It and don’t get me started on Annabelle: Creation, but much to my surprise I really enjoyed Christopher Landon’s film. It’s not scary, but then I don’t think it ever really tries to be, it’s just a slick, well-executed slasher movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously and has a lot of fun with its central gimmick.
It never gets bogged down trying to explain why Tree is able to respawn, apart from revealing that she can’t keep doing so indefinitely. Every time she’s murdered it takes a toll on her physically, so she slowly becomes weaker each time she comes back. It’s a concept that’s raised by the writers, but never really explored with any real conviction.
There’s a couple of times where it looked like the narrative had ran out of steam, for example there’s a terribly unfunny death montage sequence that’s played largely for laughs early on within the film as Tree goes all Nancy Drew and tries to identify her killer from a list of potential suspects, it’s just too silly and felt needlessly shoehorned into the feature. But every time like it looked like my interest with the movie was starting to wane, a clever little plot twist was introduced that just about managed to keep me onboard right until the end.
Maybe I’ve watched one too many horror movies, but I clocked who the film’s killer was pretty early on, don’t worry I’m not going to spoil anything here, that’s not the point of writing this review. But horror fans looking for something new might be left disappointed by the film. In a weird way one of the most refreshing things about Happy Death Day is the fact that it’s pretty much a run of the mill slasher movie: albeit one that rips of an idea from another movie.
Fun, but not Post Modern!
Some have likened it to Wes Craven’s Scream, but I really don’t think that’s a fair comparison. Happy Death Day isn’t really a film that’s interested in poking fun at all the clichés within the horror genre, its only real moment of self-awareness comes from referencing its obvious similarities to Groundhog Day, but that’s as post-modern as it gets. It’s a shame because you gotta wonder what someone like Kevin Williamson could’ve done with this kinda premise, one that’s ripe for poking fun at the tropes within the slasher movie genre, but alas it’s just not the case here.
At times it does become a little too sugary sweet, as Tree comes to realize she mightn’t be a good person after all. It’s true, at the start of the film she’s an unlikeable, deeply self-centred character, the kinda girl you’d expect to see bumped off early within a slasher movie. Like Margot Kidder’s Barb in Black Christmas or Rose McGowan’s Tatum Riley in Scream, her character is one seemingly destined to come to a grizzly end.
She’s no Nancy Thompson or Laura Strode, but that’s the point of the film, like Tom Cruise’s character in Edge of Tomorrow, she goes on a voyage of self-discovery and eventually transforms into the quintessential ‘final girl’ we’ve come to expect from the horror genre.
2017: The Year of Blumhouse
2017 has been an interesting year for Blumhouse Productions; they continue to follow the Roger Corman approach to filmmaking, make their films cheaply and enjoy the financial rewards at the box-office. We’ve already seen that pay dividends this year with M. Night Shyamalan’s Split and Jordon Peele’s Get Out, whilst Happy Death Day isn’t anywhere near as clever as those films it’s still proven to be a huge financial success at the box-office.
With a sequel already green lit, I think it’s safe to say we can set off the new franchise klaxon, because this potential new money spinner looks like it’ll follow in the footsteps of other Blumhouse backed productions like The Purge, Insidious and Paranormal Activity and kick-start a series of umpteen sequels.
It’s a shame because I think the premise lends itself more to a ‘one and done’ concept rather than a series of movies and I just can’t see how future instalments won’t quickly become stale and tiresome, but as long as the numbers continue to add up at the box-office, this potential new cash cow will probably be flogged to death for as long as possible.
I didn’t expect to like Happy Death Day, but I did! Granted it’s not a scary, but it’s just a slick, well-executed slasher movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously and has a lot of fun with its central gimmick.