Happy Death Day is a Wonderful Movie Surprise.
Full disclosure: I hate how much I love a movie that is called Happy Death Day. Taking it at face value, it seems like the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard of. However, it turned out to be an absolutely brilliant film and probably one of my favorites of the year so far. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. “Seriously? Happy Death Day, Patrick? You need to turn in your critic badge and gun.” First of all, yeah I am serious. Second of all, you’ll have to pry them from my cold dead fingers.
Happy Death Day is essentially Groundhogs Day meets the slasher genre. In other words, a girl (Jessica Rothe) has to relive the same day over and over again until she manages to get it right. The catch? Well, someone is trying to kill her and always manages to pull it off, essentially forcing her back to the save point set that morning. Saying it out loud (or writing it), I can see why you might be hesitant to trust me on this. Everything about this movie just comes together perfectly though. Best of all, director Christopher Landon and writer Scott Lobdell know how bizarre it sounds and they run with it.
You don’t see too many horror comedies that really manage to pull it off. There are a few like Dale and Tucker vs Evil, Gravy, and Blood Sucking Bastards, but I’m officially adding Happy Death Day to the list. The movie starts off trying to play it straight-faced. Introducing characters that are just awful (you know typical college kids), tossing out enough events to create markers for the rest of the movie, and building the tension right up to the first death. Honestly, I hated the first 10 minutes of the movie. From there though, it just gets better and better.
Scott Lobdell gives us a protagonist that’s so easy to hate, just like Bill Murray in Groundhogs Day, but that just makes it all the easier and more satisfying for her to grow as a character. Rothe manages to make it so easy to hate her and love her over the course of an hour and a half, it’s mind-blowing. Of course, she isn’t the only despicable character to appear over the course of the movie, but they’re there to highlight her growth along the journey. It also helps that her leading man (Israel Broussard) is adorably charming and has such great chemistry with Rothe. It’s as easy to root for them as it is for Jessica to make it through the day.
Happy Death Day is creative in its horror aspects without being gratuitously gory. It sticks to the tropes that we all know and love from scary movies, but twists them to the comedy genre. Something that is much easier said than done. What sets this film apart from those that have tried and failed is that it does it in a smart way. Landon never overplays his hand or overextends the film. Everything about it feels natural and the pieces just fall into place. That being said, those looking for a full-blown horror movie will be disappointed with Happy Death Day. So, consider yourself warned.
There are a lot of absurd parts to the film. For one thing, the killer is wearing a baby mask that I guess is supposed to be the school mascot. Which doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, because it would be impossible to have school spirit based around that. Unplanned pregnancies though would probably be done with the constant reminder. These are all forgivable when you look at Happy Death Day as a comedy. It’s not a perfect film, but it is a lot more fun than I thought it possibly could have been.
More than anything, Happy Death Day is just a good time at the movies. It’s pure popcorn. It might not be as insightful as Blade Runner 2049 or scary as It, but it is amazing at what it’s trying to be. Honestly, I wish there were more horror comedies like this because more often than not they just turn out to be comedy horrors. Trust me, there’s a difference there. So, if you’re looking for a fun date movie or just something that will help you get away from all the heavy crap that’s going on in the world, I would highly recommend seeing Happy Death Day.