Happy Death Day is an interesting movie. It uses the same premise as Groundhog Day and Edge of Tomorrow, living the same day over and over again.
It sells a horror asthetic rather than comedy or action, even though it ends up being more of comedy than horror by the end. In general, I feel like it would have worked better if it had been better written, but it’s still an entertaining movie for the most part and it won me over by the end. Getting into the plot, for those who haven’t seen it, our protagonist Tree (Jessica Rothe) is a typical college sorority girl, but on her birthday, she is murdered by a stranger in a baby mask, only to wake back up again on her birthday to do it all over again.
This movie is kinda split down the middle. The first half is set up like a cheesy college slasher, complete with bad stereotypes and poor writing, but right at the middle of the film, it basically become a comedy and loses all of its slasher style. They try to bring it back a couple times, even going so far as to put in a limit on the amount of times Tree can be killed, but it never goes far enough and it never seems to actually bring back the tension. There is a moment at the climax of the film that gets close, but since it’s at the end, it’s over quick.
The mystery in the film becomes its driving force rather than anything else, and I feel most people will be going to this film wanting to see a bunch of different kills. There is nothing super creative about the kills, mostly just stabbing, but the set up to each is a neat way to move the mystery forward. Unfortunately, the answer to that mystery is not done well, and I was left a little disappointed. It’s set up well, and it makes sense, but I feel like the reasoning was really bad. Without giving too much away, the character’s motivation for killing Tree is really dumb, and even though it makes sense in the world of this film, the world of this film is idiotic.
At least this movie took advantage of the silliness, which I’m very thankful for. Otherwise it would have been a miserable watch. Like I said earlier, Happy Death Day is half comedy, and when they make that switch, it’s actually pretty entertaining. Tree uses her “unlimited” lives to search for her killer and rule out suspects, shown through a fun little montage. Unfortunately that comes at the expense of the thriller aspects. They did do some more clever stuff after that, like Tree resetting to save someone that had been killed, and using the reset as cool way to reveal the true killer, but again, the flawed writing didn’t give a good pay off in the end.
I feel like if this film had gone through a couple more rewrites, and they punched up the beginning and end a bit more, it would have been a much better film, because the acting, when the script was good, was also pretty good. There are a lock of characters that lack any decent background, and they weren’t directed super well. I mentioned stereotypes earlier, because there are a lot. There could have been ways to make them different, maybe even just make them newer stereotypes, but most characters, especially the sorority sisters, seem like they’re from an early 2000’s college comedy.
I’d say though that I did enjoy the film, even though it had its flaws. There is still plenty to enjoy. I liked seeing Tree become a better person through the film, and she is a dang good actress too, I’d like to see her in more stuff. Happy Death Day just needed some more time in the oven, more time to make that cake rise. Go see it if you have time, just don’t pay too much for it.