By Jon Fuchs, Music Director
How do movies like Happy Death Day get made? What studio executive is sitting there thinking to himself, “Yes! A horror version of Groundhog Day, only this time it’s completely outdated and uninteresting! Just what the teens are craving!” How do audiences boo excellent, original horror films like mother! and It Comes at Night, and are totally okay with complete garbage like this? HOW???
From the acclaimed director of Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones and one of the writers of the total not-a-flop Man of the House, Happy Death Day follows Jessica Rothe as Tree (yes, her name is Tree), your typical “edgy” sorority girl, as she lives through her terrible birthday, which ends with her getting murdered by a masked killer. But in a plot scenario that’s way too familiar, Tree experiences this day over and over again, and it’s up to her to kill her killer so she can break the cycle. Instead of being a fun, campy attempt at an overused plot structure, the film takes every terrible horror movie cliché and mixes them into a dry, corny attempt at horror comedy.
The script is by far the worst element of this film, as it takes every ridiculous college stereotype and dated pop culture reference and unapologetically panders to its audience (the word “biotch” is said within the first 10 minutes, the entire audience groaned in agony). Some may like its campiness, but others will find themselves rolling their eyes at every other line of dialogue. The actors themselves do a pretty good job with what they’re given, but it isn’t enough to save the film from being watchable.
Really, the only positive thing to say about Happy Death Day is its self-awareness in its stupidity. It’s a very light-hearted movie, meaning it can get away with a lot of killer one-liners and maybe a bit of fourth-wall breaking (Groundhog Day is briefly mentioned in a scene). And sometimes it works, with there being plenty of bits and gags that are worth the laughs it gets out of you. But a lot of other times, it gets super annoying, as it spends too much time not taking itself seriously, only to awkwardly transition to a super personal scene that doesn’t fit. Other than that, the film actually does a good job at being entertaining during its climax (especially if you see it with a packed crowd).
Look, you aren’t going into a film like Happy Death Day expecting a modern horror classic; you’re going for a stupid, scary good time. But even as that, it only works sometimes, as the insanely corny dialogue and overly predictable loud noises a child wouldn’t even consider scary wear it down significantly. Even for a pretty funny movie, Happy Death Day just isn’t worth it.
Watch the trailer here: