Happy Death Day is quite simply Groundhog Day as a horror film. It’s smart and well written with satisfactory performances, but no scares or gore. This is YA horror. It’s rated PG-13 and the target audience is clearly teenage girls. Gore hounds should go elsewhere, fans of Twilight or Twilight Zone material may enjoy it.
It Plays with Your Expectations.
It begins with a Universal Pictures title card going through a time loop and restarting. A cool touch. The story starts the morning after a college hook-up. Our protagonist, Tree (Played by Jessica Rothe) wakes up in a strange dorm room after a night of debauchery she doesn’t remember. She extricates herself from the room, careful not to get along with anyone, then takes her walk of shame. She’s a sorority sister, a hard partier who sleeps around and a total bitch. The film runs through every single horror trope about the bad girl who won’t survive the killer because she’s not virginal. Then a dude in a baby mask kills her. Queue the groundhog day loop and the walk of shame commences again. It’s a clever introduction that evolves each time we see it.
We learn what makes Tree tick, we get some plot surprises and she grows as a person. Every time I thought the film was getting staid it managed to bounce back with a twist to the day’s events. I found it a hard movie to dislike, but hard to love either. There are moments where the tone veers from horror to young adult fiction to a zany energy that would fit better in a Nickelodeon movie. The pop songs are upbeat and the performances merely competent. The material explores sexual themes and profane language, but it lacks intensity. The violence is anemic. I longed for some male energy to make the thing dangerous. It’s too safe.
It’s Written by a Comic Book Writer.
Personally, I found the most interesting thing about the film to be its writer – Scott Lobdell. He’s best known for writing X-Men comics in the 90s. He worked on Uncanny X-Men and Generation X and had a large hand in “The Age of Apocalypse” and “Onslaught” cross-over events. He is also responsible for the first gay super-hero, Northstar, of Marvel’s Alpha Flight. I’m glad he’s having some success. The film is clever, but it apes Harold Ramis’ work a bit too much for my taste. It’s a young person’s film. Somebody, somewhere saw this movie first and fell in love.