Film Review: Happy Death Day (2017)

2017 in Cinema:

Happy Death Day, 2017

Directed by: Christopher B. Landon

Starring: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard

 

A few months ago I watched a Netflix Original film called Naked, which was about a man who wakes up naked in an elevator on the day of his wedding; he’s disliked by his wife-to-be’s father, his wife-to-be’s ex-boyfriend (who the father prefers) and is lazy in life and doesn’t want to commit to a full-time job. He also is stuck in a time-loop where he has to endure the same hour over and over again, before he develops into a man worthy of marriage. It’s an easy film full of cheap laughs, but I was amazed watching it seeing how the Groundhog Day situation (being forced to re-live the same moment over and over) hasn’t been done before (at least to my knowledge). Now only a few months after Netflix released Naked we have another, this time, though, taking the problem and placing it inside a horror movie.

Happy Death Day follows Tree (Jessica Rothe) as she wakes up in a dorm room and carries out her day only to be murdered at the end by a masked killer only to wake up the following morning back in the dorm room and forced to relive the day again. And the established way to end her cycle of deaths is to find out her killer (adding a who-done-it element to the film) rather than the personality development Bill Murray (Groundhog Day) and Marlon Wayans (Naked) need. As the rest have, the first day established enough people with a grudge against Tree (and her dislikeable personality), including her roommate (who she’s mean to), the boy whose dorm room she wakes up in (who she’s mean to), her sorority sisters (who she’s mean to, there’s a trend emerging), and a whole host of others.

Happy Death Day is actually a pretty fun film; it’s not exactly a novel concept but the horror aspect added to it does give it a fresh coat of paint. The acting is fairly decent from everyone; while nobody stands out as amazing, nobody brings it down, and the pacing does follow a nice structure. It’s also quite humorous for a slasher movie (I suppose it can be considered a slasher movie considering), but it, unfortunately, does have a few issues.

The first (and I must admit this is only a minor issue) is regarding the use of time. The first day she spends a set time in his dorm room before heading outside, bumping into his roommate along the way out, and then outside there’s sprinklers that go off, a car alarm, a guy checking her out and a man collapsing. Let’s say, for argument’s sake, she spends 3 minutes inside his dorm. The following day she spends, let’s say, four minutes (it’s definitely longer as she tries to make heads or tails of her situation), yet outside everything still happens as she goes outside. The third day she basically runs out of his dorm room (say a minute) and, again, everything still happens in its sequential order. It’s only a small issue, I accept that, but when a film uses a time travel element it’s disappointing that they do make a small error with it; I would have had her get to the end of the road before turning round to see the events happening again, but that doesn’t really effect the overall enjoyment of the film. What does effect the enjoyment was the killer’s reveal. I had my guess but I was wrong, and the killer’s identity was kept quite well hidden, but after its reveal I began thinking back and there’s not a lot of moments that gave us, as the audience, the clues needed to solve it.

I’m not going to spoil anything about it, but the motives for the murder are pretty high school at best (especially considering they’re college/university students), and for the act of murder to be the solution it needed a stronger motive. And there are also not enough clues throughout that lead us to the identity, which is always disappointing in a murder mystery, as the best part is allowing us to play detective. Having no clues (aside from one major spoiler which I brushed aside as a red herring as it was only halfway through the film and seemed far too obvious) did take its plot down from 4* to 3*.

But, that aside, everything else is pretty fun: it blends horror and romance with comedy and a few cliff-hangers and exciting red herrings with a nice story about a woman embracing who she should be rather than who she is (even if the day where she makes peace with a family member in a nice moment is erased). It’s just a bit of a shame that the reveal wasn’t as exciting because I wasn’t given enough of a chance to be able to have solved it out myself.

 

Plot: * * *     Acting: * * *     Writing: * * *     Presentation: * * *

Overall Rating: * * *

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