Director: Christopher B. Landon
Starring: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine, Charles Aitkin
Into the realm of fun slasher films comes ‘Happy Death Day,’ a film that shoots its way into box office mayhem, but doesn’t take itself too seriously. Christopher B. Landon, the ‘Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse’ director helmed this thriller and gave it a new direction in fear we haven’t been given before. It borrows the notion of the beloved ‘Groundhog Day’ in that our protagonist experiences the same day in a continuous loop, but in this case, our protagonist is unexpectedly killed into the next (same) day. Blumhouse Productions took a stab in producing this one and it somewhat pays off.
Tree Gelbman is a self-centered, sorority girl who prances through life with the egotistical impression that she is above everyone else at her college. It’s her birthday and her dad buzzing on the the phone wakes her in the dorm bed of a guy named Carter, with whom it’s presumed she slept with the night before. Tree rushes out of the room, without a care in the world for Carter’s friendly words, and attempts to carry on her day like nothing. She avoids her father’s calls, with the hopes of not celebrating the birthday she shares with her deceased mother. As she continues her day, she’s given a homemade cupcake from her roommate, is late for class, and is on her way to a house party that evening until she is stabbed by someone bearing the mascot baby mask and is awaken back into the dorm bed. Thinking it was a hella realistic nightmare, Tree gets up and begins to notice that she may have lived this day before. As her day plays out the exact same, she’s killed once again, realizing that she needs to somehow break this cycle and figure out who her killer is.
‘Happy Death Day’ carries on with superficial college campus stereotypes. An airhead sorority queen, gnarly parties where drama ensues at the thought of who’s gonna sleep with who, an affair with your professor, and other small touches in its tropes. Set almost entirely on the college campus, the film really takes a leap of faith with its predictability. With that being said, it does have a few surprises up its sleeve. Christopher B. Landon and writer Scott Lobdell know that the audience, from the get-go, will be on the lookout for Tree’s killer. The film dances around the ideas throughout the runtime and half-heartedly fulfills it, not to say we weren’t surprised though!
We see a delightful performance in ‘Happy Death Day’ from Jessica Rothe as the collegian victim who realises the gravity of not only her murderous encounters, but also what it’s like to look at the person you have become. Rothe gave lasting performances in her day to day chances at life. Her acting saves the film enough to make it unforgettable. We see her experience almost every feeling imaginable and it begs us to just follow her in future films she ventures to. While silly as some scenes of the film may be, it plays hand in hand with the thriller’s narrative, which is pretty decent on some levels. Going into the theater and leaving it pleasantly surprised is enough to give ‘Happy Death Day’ credit where it’s due. The baby mask worn by the recurrent killer only amplifies as a staple to the film. Where it doesn’t excel in storylines, it makes up for as a film that was fun to watch.
The film carries more heart to it than one would expect. There are times when it makes us take a look at ourselves and how, if given the chance to redo things, we would fix them. Tree struggles in the beginning at being a likeable character, as she is mainly a stereotype sorority gal. Toward the middle of the film is where she grows a few redeeming qualities, and I give it tons of kudos in this department. ‘Happy Death Day’ angles at not being too full of itself and it demands to be a lasting print into the modern thriller collection.
Jessica’s Rating: 6.5 out of 10