By Dave B.
In Happy Death Day (2017) Tree (Jessica Rothe), a sorority sister with a horrible personality, wakes up in a strange dorm room on her birthday with no memory of the previous night. She goes through the rest of her day being generally awful to everyone she encounters, and at the end of the day, she’s brutally murdered by a masked killer. She immediately wakes up back in the strange dorm room and discovers that she has woken up on her birthday again, this time with memories of her death. This process repeats over and over again as she attempts to discover who her murderer is and prevent her own demise.
Yes, Happy Death Day’s use of looping time isn’t particularly original. And yes, the broad outlines of the mystery behind Tree’s murder are relatively predictable. But Happy Death Day is surprisingly entertaining. Combining repeating the same day with a slasher movie is effective in this case because the movie is aware of its shortcomings and focuses on personal growth and humor instead of blood and gore. Rothe’s fairly strong performance as Tree and the film’s effective script are essential to making this movie enjoyable, because the character’s evolution from detestable to likable could easily have been mishandled in a number of ways. Despite starting off as a horrible person, Tree is smart, strong, and a fighter and her growth is completely believable. Plus, there are some creative elements in the movie regarding the effects of her continual deaths and rebirths, that work really well.
My primary problem with Happy Death Day is just that it’s targeted to a much younger audience than myself. It’s PG-13 rating may expand it’s potential audience, but leaves the film feeling somewhat superficial at times. Viewers can almost viscerally feel the cast and crew occasionally having to rein themselves in to keep the movie acceptably inoffensive to more sensitive sensibilities. In the big scheme of things however, that’s a minor complaint and there isn’t really anything else about the movie that stands out as a strong negative.
Frankly, I’m surprised by how much I enjoyed Happy Death Day. True, it isn’t going to revolutionize the slasher genre and it doesn’t provoke any deep, philosophical thoughts. It’s just some solid, well-crafted, relatively mindless fun and I recommend it. I don’t like it enough to pay to see it’s soon to be released sequel, but I’ll definitely check it out when it’s streaming.
I have no clue what I'm doing, but I'll keep doing whatever it is to the best of my ability.