Happy Death Day review: A college student finds herself repeating the day of her death in this Groundhog Day style slasher from Blumhouse.
Happy Death Day review, Kat Hughes.
Blumhouse started the year with a bang as surprise successes Split and Get Out dominated the global box office. Between them the two movies amassed over a mighty $530 million. Now as we approach the final quarter of 2017, the horror house is back with their latest offering – Happy Death Day, which already appears to showing early signs of being another smash-hit.
Happy Death Day, much like many recent Blumhouse productions, has a quirky hook to it. The unique selling point this time around revolves on that age old time loop trope. Tree (Jessica Rothe) is a bitchy sorority sister who finds herself forever reliving her Birthday. Now, to most people this might sound like a rather fun endeavour, however, unfortunately for Tree, the day also happens to be the day that someone decides to kill her. Tree becomes trapped in this horrendous time loop wherein she is fated to die over and over; her only way out is to work-out the identity of her murderer. Somehow Happy Death Day is simultaneously a move that feels modern and current, and one that feels like a throwback to slasher movies of yesteryear. The killer wears a mask for one, which instantly transports us back to films such as Friday the 13th, Halloween, Scream, Valentine etc. Plus, the slasher film hasn’t really been good since the nineties. The modern spin is that, whilst technically it can be classed as a slasher film, it’s basically the same victim dying over and over, rather than a group of them.
It’s a film that isn’t afraid to have some fun. Director Christopher Landon knows that the premise is a little silly and at times embraces this. Much like Scream, there are a lot of self-referential nods in addition to several homages, the highlight being a Sixteen Candles moment towards the end. Happy Death Day is also a film that doesn’t treat its audience as idiots. All too often in horror films, especially ones aiming at a more teenage audience, they spell every little plot point out in minute detail. Here all the information you need to solve the mystery and fill in Tree’s history are there, they’re just not expositioned to within an inch of their lives. There is no spoon-feeding here, you’ll have to pay attention to get the full experience. Where Happy Death Day isn’t so clever is in the identity of the killer, many familiar with this type of genre will potentially work it out very quickly. That being said, it doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the film, it’s just a little bit of an anticlimax.
Jessica Rothe does a brilliant job of holding the film together. She features in ever single scene, but manages to maintain the audience’s attention, and eventually garners their sympathies. When we fist meet Tree, she’s truly despicable, making it all too easy to understand why someone wishes to murder her. Slowly, as the day’s repetition continues, Tree takes a long hard look at herself and slowly becomes a much nicer and more relate-able protagonist. It’s no mean feat morphing Tree into a character you want to root for, but Rothe pulls it off.
Israel Broussard also deserves a mention for his turn as Carter. Carter is a character straight out of an eighties teen movie. He’s the shy, sensitive, but somehow cool, love interest. This is a male character that is there to support the female lead, rather than dominate her. It’s an archetype we’ve not really seen in a recent years and it’s nice to see one pop up again.
Blumhouse appear to be stuck in their own time loop at the moment – get quirky idea, make film which is actually good and makes a ton of money, repeat. If films like Happy Death Day continue to be amongst them, then long may it continue. A film that will please modern and older audiences alike, Happy Death Day is a fun and frightening spin on the time-loop trope. Enjoyable and entertaining, this is one film destined to join the ranks of other classic teen slashers.
Happy Death Day review by Kat Hughes, October 2017.
Happy Death Day is in UK cinemas now.