Movie Review: ‘Happy Death Day’
Director: Christopher B Landon
Cast: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine, Rachel Matthews
Plot: Sorority girl Tree Gelbman is murdered by a masked maniac, but finds herself reliving the same day time and time again until she can uncover and stop her killer.
Review: It took 24 years for them to realise Groundhog Day would be hilarious as a slasher movie.
Sometimes a movie gives you exactly what you expect it to, and that’s satisfying. After muddying the horror genre by ‘writing’ a number of Paranormal Activity sequels director Landon delivers a super-fun teen horror just in time for Halloween. It’s a simple concept and the film-makers have capitalised on it in the best possible way.
Tree (Rothe) has a prickly demeanour, which keeps people at arms length. She spends her college nights partying and is having an affair with her professor. On her birthday – an event she tries to keep a secret – she is attacked and killed by a masked psycho in classic horror movie fashion. She then finds herself reliving the same day again and again with the killer catching her regardless of what she does.
What makes the movie work best is the evolution of the main character. She’s certainly shallow at the beginning of the movie but, like Phil Conners in Groundhog Day, she learns what she needs to do to be a better person and surprisingly becomes a strong character who we want to see succeed. Tree certainly becomes someone to cheer on when she goes to confront the killer essentially dressed as Buffy.
The rest of the plot unfolds as you’d expect with a montage of silly behaviour, another of different murders, some red herrings and an investigation. Without giving away essential plot points the film did the expected on some occasions and took us by surprise at other times. There’s a neat trail of breadcrumbs throughout the film alluding to past trauma and the identity of the killer.
Happy Death Day isn’t going to redefine the genre, but it does showcase how to make a horror movie fun to watch. It’s silly, and it knows it’s silly and runs with it. Film nerds will love all the references to 80s and 90s flicks (a Sixteen Candles homage was unexpected) and young folk looking for a fun Halloween night out will be well served.
Rating: SEVEN out of TEN
It’s so hard to tell from the trailer whether it’s silly-stupid or silly fun, and I’ve been itching for a fun horror movie all month. Great review! I feel more comfortable wanting to check it out now.