“Happy Death Day” is dumb. It utilizes every cliché in the book; many of its characters are stock and have been used in a dozen scary movies, new and old. However, despite that… and I cannot believe I’m saying this… it was really fun! No joke, this movie had me sporting a gigantic grin on my face for all of its run.
“Happy Death Day” comes to us from the folks at Blumhouse Productions who are most known for micro budget films such as the “Paranormal Activity” films, the “Purge Trilogy” and the “Insidious” films. The film is about a girl named Tree who, for reasons unknown to her, is stuck reliving her birthday in which she is repeatedly murdered by a mystery killer in a creepy baby mask. Her goal is to figure out who her killer is and make it to the day after her birthday, all while having to deal with some personal issues in her life.
What makes this film work despite its predictable plot elements is the above average directing and a superb main lead. Jessica Rothe succeeds at selling the transition from vapid party girl to self-aware badass with grace and ease. She also has expert comedic timing and chemistry with the performers around her; she is most definitely the glue that holds this film together.
Sadly, the film never gets too violent, clearly held back by its PG-13 rating. Fans of gore and blood might be disappointed that this film never truly gets to show its teeth in that regard. I must concede that the film makes up for the lack of gore with an above average mystery that surprisingly kept my attention for the duration of the film. However, not to boast, I was able to deduce who the killer was in the first 20 minutes of the film, and sure enough I was 100% right! The killer is not the most memorable slasher villain, but they do sport a rather creepy mask that will no doubt be in many Halloween costume shops before the month is out, giving the film a recognizable symbol. As mentioned earlier, the film does showcase some rather competent directing which helps create some solid moments of suspense. Additionally, the chase scenes are good and the film has a very energetic soundtrack.
The film also succeeds at being legitimately funny at times, stemming either from the main character’s over the top reactions to her situation or her anticipations of certain events in the day she keeps living. While this film is not going to be a horror classic, this is a perfect film to show at your next Halloween party as a simple mindless background film that your guests will get some shrieks and laughs at. In a scene full of serious and artfully crafted horror cinema, sometimes you just want to kick back and have a good time and “Happy Death Day” does exactly that.