“Happy Death Day” is directed by Christopher Landon and stars Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine, and Charles Aitken. The film is about a girl who is forced to relive her birthday over and over again until she figures out who her murderer is, and how to stop herself from getting killed by the end of the day.
This was a movie that I really had minimal expectations for, as the trailer seemed like a rip off of “Groundhog Day” mixed with that “Before I Fall” movie from earlier in the year. Also, “Happy Death Day” is a terrible name, so, while my hopes were low, I was hoping the director of gems like “Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse” and “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” could pull through.
As sarcastic as that last statement was, I do think that director Christopher Landon does manage to pull through with a fun horror flick for a large chunk of this movie. Landon makes a smart move and goes for a more lighthearted and loose approach to making this movie, and I think that decision works for the better. There are a lot of fun moments in the movie, and I was glad to see that Landon was able to not make the movie too serious, but also much more straightforward than his last project.
Jessica Rothe is terrific in the lead role of the movie here, and for being relatively unknown, I did love her one scene in “La La Land,” she manages to handle this tricky performance very well. Rothe is the cliché mean, hot girl, sure, but she also brings a surprising amount of depth to the role, and does a fantastic job in the horror scenes, as she is never over the top or ridiculous, which is a mistake many before her have done.
While sometimes overdoing it, I did like Israel Broussard’s performance, and what his character added to the movie. His character feels like a bit of a direct callback to “Groundhog Day” in a few ways, but I think he does just enough to stand out from that classic and become his own, and I enjoyed his back and forths with Rothe more as the movie went along.
There are some very well-crafted scares early on, and while they did get a tad repetitive, as they are bound to in a film that repeats itself, Landon’s relatively sharp direction, as well as the script by Scott Lobdell helps the movie from becoming dull and overly tedious.
Obviously “Groundhog Day” has to come up when thinking about any movie with a time loop, and “Happy Death Day” does its best to be its own, unique entity, but I think it just falls short of doing so. Too many parts of its story feel too much like a copycat version of the OG, and, while there are some cool twists on the classic, multiple moments felt like rip-offs of what I already know and love from Bill Murray and Harold Ramis.
Much like “Groundhog Day,” yet sadly, even more with this movie, the less thought, the better. There are clear plot holes that don’t seem to have much of an answer to them, and the more the movie adds new layers to the plot, the more I began to think about how little some of her previous lives made sense.
Those critiques are forgivable, for the most part, and expected from a horror movie with a story element like a time loop, but there is no real excuse for how rushed and forced the finale of this movie feels. The plot seemed to be heading towards this huge reveal that was going to blow me away, but what we got instead was something that felt really goofy and totally underwhelming, and it left me with a bad taste leaving the theater, even though I enjoyed the first 90 percent of the movie.
“Happy Death Day” is a fun thriller with a great lead performance and a surprisingly good direction and script. For the most part, I enjoyed the ride that this movie took me on, even if it often felt familiar and even when the plot started to feel messy. Still, I won’t be able to shake that terrible ending completely, so even though this film was surprisingly enjoyable, I can’t say that it totally worked from start to finish.
What did you think of “Happy Death Day”? Comment below with your thoughts.