Movie Review: Happy Death Day (Spoiler Free)

Updated on October 17, 2017

Spoiler Free

I'm not gonna spoil anything outside of anything you've seen in the trailers. I discuss the premise, character portrayals, settings, and whatnot in an effort to explain my opinion on whether or not you should see this film.

Movie poster for the film
Movie poster for the film | Source

Initial Impressions

Several things initially intrigued me about this film. I knew none of the actors and it seemed like horror-version of Groundhog Day. The theorist in me had a field day trying to come up with how the plot would reveal itself during the film such as why the main character kept reliving the days or who and why the killer chose the main character.

In a nutshell, I enjoyed the film even if it wasn't quite what I expected it to be. It was considerably lighter in tone and wasn't quite a heavy thinking film. But you know what? I enjoyed it despite that. It's a film that I greatly enjoyed and would give it a reasonably high recommendation.

Left to Right: Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) and her roommate Lori Spengler (Ruby Rodine)
Left to Right: Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) and her roommate Lori Spengler (Ruby Rodine) | Source

The Plot

The plot begins when Theresa 'Tree' Gelbman (played by Jessica Rothe) wakes up with a hangover in the college dormroom of a boy named Carter (played by Israel Broussard). More annoyed than embarassed, she begins her daily routine for her birthday. Her activities reveal her connections and what kind of person she is. Then, at the end of the day she is killed by someone wearing a baby mask, only to wake back up in Carter's room at the beginning of her birthday. She struggles on what to do as the cycle continues.

If you've seen or are familiar with Bill Murray's Groundhog Day, you should be slightly familiar with the premise, except Groundhog Day didn't have a murderer or have a setting on a college campus. This film is light for a 'slasher flick' and has plenty of humor without trying too hard.

Casting and Performance

This might be the strongest component to the film. I recognized none of the actors or actresses beforehand so I didn't expect much. As with Groundhog Day, there's a major focus on the main character, Tree (played by Jessica Rothe) as her character changes through the time loop, adapting and discovering more about herself. She starts out as the stereotypical college sorority girl; she's a snot, doesn't have anyone she cares about, doesn't care about other people's relationships. As the film continues (and she dies, of course) her character changes, makes fewer stupid mistakes and sees her day to day life differently. She becomes more likable as well, which always helps.

That being said in terms of plot and real character development, Tree is a one woman show (considering all other characters don't remember the previous time loop, this makes sense). But each character is still clearly defined and it's easy to see who the audience is supposed to like, who they hate, and humorous one note characters on the side. The characters that you're supposed to hate in particular are actually fun to hate. The sorority head Danielle is her own force of nature as straightforward as any mean girl with power. Frat guys are stereotypical frat guys you see on other media who shouldn't surprise the audience with their actions. There are quite a few other roles that don't have any real surprising dimension to them, but they're done well.

Tree being stalked by her killer
Tree being stalked by her killer | Source

It's Kinda-Sorta Not Really a Slasher Flick...

Sure, people die, people act stupid and die, there's a killer with a mask, and there's several other staples of the series. But somehow, this film has a fair amount of heart in it. Without going to deep and potentially spoiling anything, there are those who seek to help others and make selfless sacrifices. There's genuine happiness and resolution to certain events. There's also next to no gore despite repeated killings as most deaths either happen off screen or are obscured in some way. And then there's the humor you get from someone realizing there in a time loop while surrounded by college shenanigans. It's not afraid to be silly and while there are some depressing sections of the film, it pairs very nicely with its lighter halves.

Also, if you come for the twists, they can be underwhelming. The revelations and realizations aren't bad but if you're expecting to get your mind blown, don't.

So, about Groundhog Day doing this first...

This movie actually acknowledges this fact but takes the main plot in a different direction (obviously as a baby mask wearing killer wasn't stalking Bill Murray). This movie takes the concept and explores different avenues. If you think the premise is ripping off Groundhog Day, it can argued so, but it's certainly not the first nor the last to use a time loop as its focal point.

Movie Trailer for Happy Death Day

Blumhouse Productions

Blumhouse Productions helped fund this film. Why is this important? They're known for lower budgeted but high quality films. It's the same house where we get the films Get Out, The Purge movies, and The Visit. It hits the same standard as the others more or less do. If you like or are comfortable with those, you will probably enjoy this.

Rated PG-13

It's obvious dark enough to contain murder and some sexual innuendos (this is a college setting after all), there's very little gore especially compared to other slashers. There's a couple shots of a girl in her bra and implicit nudity although nothing is explicitly shown. There are no sex scenes, implied or otherwise, and while there is adult language, one could argue it's not egregious but to each their own.

Tree with a gun drawn
Tree with a gun drawn | Source

Closing Thoughts

I saw Happy Death Day with certain expectations and received a slightly different film. Despite this, I enjoyed it. It blends its elements extremely well and while not exactly provoking, it's a fun and easy watch that doesn't polarize negatively. If you're not a frequent movie goer, this may not be a top priority but when it becomes a rental, I strongly recommend checking it out. Fans of Blumhouse Productions will find a similar setup to what they enjoy as well.

Tl;dr

  • One of the more tame slasher flicks I've witnessed with plenty of humor and heart
  • Stellar performances by the cast, especially the lead
  • Easily digestible but it's plot isn't exactly profound
  • Easily a strong recommendation for a rental for a rare theater-goer

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