Groundhog Day meets Scream in Happy Death Day, a movie that is a whole lot better than it has any business being.
We follow college student Tree, who, after a drunken night, wakes up in a dorm room with Carter. She doesn’t remember much from the previous evening, and after dismissing Carter, storms off to spend the rest of her day – birthday, natch – like she normally would. Come evening, things take an abrupt turn, and she finds herself staring down a baby masked killer. No points for guessing what comes next: she is stabbed to death, the day starts looping, and will by the rules of movie logic keep doing so until she can stop the murderer.
Happy Death Day does not try to hide its influences. The characters make direct references to Groundhog Day, and the same person who designed the iconic Scream mask created this movie’s babyface. This is a movie that gleefully indulges in pilfering from other movies without taking itself seriously. Happy Death Day is, to describe it succinctly, a comedy dressed up as a horror film.
The script, written by one Scott Lobdell, is sharp and is well utilized by director Christopher Landon. Happy Death Day could easily have faded into oblivion had the cast been directed as typical teen tropes, but Landon handles the on-screen chaos well. Particularly Jessica Rothe shows off some great comedic timing as the protagonist, Tree.
The mileage you get from a movie like Happy Death Day is subjective, and you’re bound to appreciate some of the loop cycles more than others. That’s the nature of the genre, but I cannot say I was ever bored during the ninety-minute run time.
Happy Death Day is just a downright entertaining film. It doesn’t matter if you’re a horror fan or not. If anything, Happy Death Day is a more colorful Groundhog Day, and I feel myself being surprisingly enamored by it.
The sequel, Happy Death Day 2 U was released earlier this year, and my musings shall be posted soon.
Happy Death Day could easily have ended up as one of those anonymous teen horror movies you find in the dark depths of Netflix. The original attempt at making the movie ten years ago, likely would have put it right there, with the studio wanting a
darker teen horror. By the sounds of it, it could have become the House of Wax remake’s peer.