Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) is your average college ‘It girl’ who belongs to an elite sorority, looks down on fellow classmates, and indulges in hooking up with guys and partying. Today is her birthday and hungover from the night before, she is not in the mood. To make matters worse, when she walking around that evening, she is murdered by a hooded figure wearing a baby mask. Tree then wakes up to find that it’s her birthday again. She quickly realises that she is going to have to keep living this day and get killed again and again until she can identify the murderer and stop them.
The studio behind Happy Death Day, Blumhouse (pronounced Bluhm-house, not Bloom-house, by the way) Productions, has become a name that makes movie fans sit up. The company, headed by Jason Blum, specialises in micro-budget films, and since its first hit, Paranormal Activity, has continued to be on the up. To date, it's best-known for the successful Insidious and Sinister franchises and this year had two major hits in Split and Get Out (on the non-horror side, it also produced the critically acclaimed Whiplash). While Happy Death Day doesn’t have quite the ingenuity of other films we've seen from the production company, it still makes for a very entertaining feature.
One thing that should be mentioned straight off is that Happy Death Day isn’t really a horror. It’s a horror-comedy, and a fairly bloodless one (literally speaking) at that. This is particularly interesting when you consider that the director behind this, Christopher Landon, previously wrote the Paranormal Activity films 2 through 4, Scouts Guide to the Apocalypse (which he also directed) and Disturbia. Happy Death Day has a lot of strengths working for it, but it may leave horror fans wanting more.
While the film has been repeatedly described as having a ‘Groundhog Day meets Scream’ kind of premise, this seems rather simplistic and doesn’t take into account its fresh execution of the story, which is smart and very self-aware. It moves at a good pace, isn’t too long, and has enough twists and turns to keep audiences invested. As well as having some great comedic moments, it also has an excellent cast, with actors all relatively new to the scene (you might recognise Jessica Rothe from a supporting role in La La Land or Israel Broussard from The Bling Ring but that’s probably it) and the narrative stands firmly on its own two feet without needing big names to bring the film along. In fact, a film like this just needs good actors – the distraction of A-listers would have likely dragged it down.
At that, the film isn’t perfect and feels like it could have used a little more polishing. The script can be a little cheesy and one montage in which Tree tries to narrow down who the killer is feels rushed. As a film with a supernatural element (given she comes back from the dead and keeps reliving the same day), it is also brought down by a few plot holes. Still, they aren’t substantial enough to take away from the film’s entertainment value. It could have been better but Happy Death Day is still a very enjoyable feature.