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Film Review – Happy Death Day (2017)

As is the case every year, a horror movie is coming out around Halloween, only this time it involves shades of Groundhog’s Day.  Happy Death Day is the latest film from Blumhouse to involve a high concept plot to suck you in to the theaters.  But now, there’s horror, comedy, college students, and a killer in a baby mask.  The following review will be spoiler free.

Happy Death Day

Synopsis

Directed By: Christopher Landon

Written By: Scott Lobdell and Christopher Landon

Starring: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, and Ruby Modine

A college student (Rothe) wakes up in the dorm room of another student (Broussard) on her birthday.  After that awkward encounter, Tree (Rothe, again) goes about her day, trying to keep her birthday somewhat low-key.  However, on the way to the big party on campus, Tree encounters a creepy, baby-face masked figure.  Unfortuntely for Tree, the figure murders her.

Rather than passing on to the great beyond, Tree wakes up in the same dorm room, on the same day, with the same circumstances.  To her dismay, she’s killed over and over again by the same figure as she continues to re-live the same day, forcing her to figure out the identity of her killer.

Background

Back in 2009, Megan Fox was pegged to star in Happy Death Day (under a different title, Half to Death) with Michael Bay signed on to produce.  A big shout out goes to the executives that stalled the project until 2017 while the team involved in the film changed.  We all owe you one!

Nevertheless, Happy Death Day is the latest high concept film from Blumhouse Productions to hit theaters (“high concept” in this situation refers to a film with an engaging premise that has serious broad appeal).  The company has routinely stayed within the horror/thriller genre for these films, with movies like Split, Get Outand The Belko Experiment already released this year.

With films like Get Out making hundreds of millions of dollars on budgets of less than $10 million, get ready for more “gotcha!” premises to reel you into the theaters in the coming years.

Jessica Rothe is Awesome!  Get to Know Her!

Normally, movies like this one just don’t work because there’s limited talent involved due to the shoestring budget.  Luckily, Happy Death Day has Jessica Rothe who can only be described as awesome.  Every other character has a limited arc due to the the same day repeating over and over again, turning the focus to Rothe to provide 95% of the entertainment, and she’s game for all of it.

As the film begins, Rothe acts like a character straight out of The Heathers, acting cruel and above everyone else.  But as she starts to re-live the same day, she begins to literally and physical lose it, acting loopy, confused, angry, and so much more.  She isn’t afraid to act insane, making for some highly comedic moments.  To the surprise of this critic, she shows genuine emotion and heart during a few sequences, tugging on your heartstrings for an instant.

I foresee a future where Jessica Rothe is a star, so get to know her now!

A Large Helping of Wit Elevates the Events of the Film

For a film as ridiculous as Happy Death Day, director Christopher Landon knew that it would benefit from a bunch of campy, heightened sequences and characters.  Characters are essentially winking at the camera with every passing moment, understanding not to take themselves too seriously.  The film even has a direct reference to Groundhog’s Day!  A film with the title “Happy Death Day” needed to be self-aware.  Can you take that title seriously?  I sure can’t.

Everything about Happy Death Day is heightened to the nth degree.  This trait is best seen in the depiction of Rothe’s sorority where all the woman hate food and are basically extremely rude to everyone that isn’t on their perceived level.

But it doesn’t stop there.  Kills are pulled off in an absurd, and sometimes hilarious, fashion, pushing our main character to new levels of absurdity.  To put it bluntly, Happy Death Day is just really, really fun.

More Blood, Please!

But for all its fun, one can’t help but think that Happy Death Day may have been even more enjoyable with some more blood and guts.  In a movie that’s essentially all about the kills, why on Earth would you make it PG-13?  Blumhouse has their model figured out so the film will probably make tons more money because of this decision, but it’s done at the disservice of the film itself.

All the kills are completed without a single drop of blood, forcing the camera to cut away from the action.  There isn’t a visceral punch to Happy Death Day that makes its scary moments actually scary.  In fact, Happy Death Day really isn’t scary at all; it’s more of a comedy with a thriller edge than a horror movie.

Rothe’s character takes some serious punishment during the film, but you never fell any of it.  Not only would more gore satisfy horror fans, but it would also allow us to better identity with the main character.

A Very, Very Dumb Reveal

So to keep spoilers out of the discussion, I won’t expand on this idea.  But yeah, it’s pretty self-explanatory.

Final Thoughts

It’s hard to give a film like Happy Death Day a good grade.  It’s a horror-comedy that isn’t scary.  That should be enough to sink the film in its own right.  However, there’s something incredibly charming and enjoyable here.  Powered by a great lead performance from Jessica Rothe, Happy Death Day is plain, stupid fun.  Around Halloween time, that’ll be enough for a lot of moviegoers.  It gets a B-.

Happy Death Day plays great to a theater filled with patrons that can laugh at its absurdity, so see it opening weekend for the best results!

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Thanks for reading!  What are your thoughts on Happy Death Day?  Comment down below!

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Nick Kush

A current college student, Nick founded MovieBabble in October of 2016 in order to provide insightful film analysis that is meant to educate and entertain. Nick is also a member of the Internet Film Critics Society.

7 Responses

  1. Jolly Bites says:

    Thanks for sharing this review. It takes an awesome horror flick to get me into the theaters these days. I’ll wait for rental on my xbox.

  2. Steve says:

    Now this sounds interesting. Thanks for pointing it out

  3. I shall keep this one in mind for Netflix, given my interest in time-travel films. Definitely sounds better than the previous slasher film/time-loop film I watched, Camp Slaughter (AVOID!).

    • Nick Kush says:

      Lol! Unless you plan on going to the theaters with a large group of people to share a communal experience, waiting until Netflix is probably your best bet. It’s really fun, but it’s nothing to go crazy over.

  4. Nick Kush says:

    Want to write for MovieBabble? Head over to this link to submit an application!: https://moviebabblereviews.com/join-moviebabble/

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