We have seen this type of film before. Everybody (including the film itself) is comparing this to Groundhog’s Day, the classic Bill Murray/Harold Ramis comedy and the action/adventure film Edge of Tomorrow. Fact is, Happy Death Day cannot be positively compared to either of those films.
That does not make this a bad movie. On contrary, I found myself really enjoying this horror/comedy/slasher film mash up.
We meet our leading lady, Tree (Jessica Rothe), waking up in a dorm room after what was implied to be a one-night stand. Carter (Israel Broussard) is there waiting for her to awaken. Tree storms from the dorm room and goes about the day, her birthday, being one grade A bitch.
However, near the end of the day, Tree is stalked and murdered by a baby-mask wearing killer. Instead of dying, Tree wakes up again, back in the dorm room, and the day starts to repeat. Eventually, she decides that the only way to stop this from happening is to figure out who her killer really is.
So…yes the film has many of the same ideas, beats and concepts as Groundhog’s Day. There are many cliche things that happen to the character. The fact that she is one of the “mean girls” at first, the conflicts with the other girls, the love interest with the professor, the estranged relationship with the father, none of these are particularly original. However, what the film does with most of these cliches is interesting and enjoyable.
I have to say that those people who are just criticizing the movie because it is a “Groundhog’s Day” rip off are not giving this film a chance.
Truthfully, the movie is not that much of a horror movie. It is a slasher movie, but the killer is not the focus. Instead, it is the victim that gets the spotlight. Happy Death Day is not very scary either, so those looking for tremendous frights might feel disappointment. Happy Death Day is much more of a comedy and a mystery story than it is a horror movie.
I was engaged in trying to figure out the killer. I am usually pretty good at that, but I will admit that I did not have it solved. I was looking for clues in the scenes and running ideas through my head as I watched the film, proving that the soon-to-be-repeated murder mystery had me hooked.
Jessica Rothe is excellent as our lead character of Tree (the name is weird). She was very compelling, attractive and filled up the screen with her presence. She also had a very easy chemistry with Israel Broussard, making it very comfortable to root for them as a couple. Broussard’s character was a really nice guy and I found myself liking him a lot.
There are some very clever moments in the film as well, plot-wise. The film is played in a very meta manner, almost with an acknowledgement that the film is silly fun and that the actors and creators know that and embrace that.
Director Christopher Landon directed Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, a silly little film that I enjoyed way more than I thought I would, and he wrote several of the Paranormal Activity movies. He brings that very style to this film in a very effective manner. The film is well directed and each shot is blocked with an appropriate eye. The pacing is strong and the performances are engaging.
In the end, this movie should not be compared to these other movies because they are truly different, even if they have used the same plot device. Perhaps we can create a genre of “Repeating the day” movies and then we can look at them all together. Until that day comes, I am going to look at individual movies at a time without a preconceived judgment. And with that, Happy Death Day is a winner.