I’m sorry if you thought Happy Death Day was a horror movie, because it’s not. If you’re just looking for a fun movie to see with your friends on the weekend, I suppose you could check this one out. It’s a teen thriller that combines Groundhog Day and a slasher, telling the story of a girl who gets killed every night and immediately wakes up the morning before. The slasher part of it is really minimal, though, and it’s actually more of a mystery as the main character tries to figure out who her killer is and how she can stop living the same day on repeat.
The lead actress in the film, Jessica Rothe, does a fine job at getting the audience on her side, especially since she starts out as an absolutely garbage person. She treats everybody around her, including family members, very poorly and it’s hard to root for her at first. She begins her cycle of living the same day over and over, though, and she has to learn to become a better person. It’s kind of cheesy, and a bit cliché, but for what this movie needed the character to be, her arc was just fine.
The more intense side of the film (everything that was used to market it as a horror movie) is also passable, but there’s nothing outstanding about it. The scares fall victim to far too many slasher tropes, with the surprising moments accentuated by a jarring sound effects and the main character tripping and not standing back up. It’s dumb, but like I said, that aspect of the movie blends into the background because the focus of the movie is on the solving of the mystery.
Technically, I have no gripes with Happy Death Day. It looks good and it’s well structured, but maybe it’s too well structured. It follows what seems like a very generic formula, offering nothing new or fresh or surprising. There’s a twist tacked onto the end, after we get the impression that the story is over, and it’s the worst kind of twist possible. It’s not built up to or hinted at in any way, and to be honest it makes no sense at all. It seems like the writers threw together another “shocking” plot point to glue onto the end of the movie when they realized it wasn’t long enough, and it made worse what was already a disappointing experience.
I didn’t hate watching Happy Death Day, but I’ll certainly never watch it again. I think the main character is entertaining and the mission she goes on to solve her own little murder mystery kept my attention. I was just hoping for more to the story that would have made it less familiar and more engaging. If ever the circumstances arise when there’s nothing to watch and this one is available on Netflix, maybe check it out. On any other occasion it’s probably not worth it, simply because it’s a pretty bland retelling of a story we’ve already seen in other, better films like Groundhog Day or Edge of Tomorrow.
— Camden McDonald