Quick Hit: A sadly oft-repeated premise that lands with more “thuds” than “splats”.
Ah, PG-13 horror, one of the most dangerous pitfalls that a filmmaker can fall into.
I don’t even those that make their careers out of it, because it’s got to be extremely difficult to make a horror movie and attempt to capture the teen audience. There are numerous reasons for this – the lack of ability to truly go to the next level with the violence, the lack of scares allowed to be in the film, etc. – but it really doesn’t allow for people to go to the next level at times.
However, at times, a movie comes along that does a little better than its station. Enter Happy Death Day, a movie from October of 2017. The concept is immediately borrowed from Groundhog Day: a young coed lives the same day over and over. It always ends in her murder by a man wearing a mask. The movie turns into a bit of a whodunit as Tree (played by Jessica Rothe) tries to determine who her masked murderer is.
Is it amazing? Not really. Are there enough humourous moments that the movie is worth a watch for horror fans? Probably.
Death Day unfolds in three predictable phases. One – Tree is a mean person. Two – Tree isn’t sure what’s happening, but enjoys the ability to live her life over and over. Three – Tree figures everything out and changes her life around. Pretty standard “live your life again” stuff. However, what manages to keep the film from turning into something like the terrible Premature is that it keeps its humor surprisingly above board. There’s very little humor that is wasted, and its violence, though obviously cleaned up from what would have inevitably been a better “R” version, is used to accent points.
I will say one of the qualities that makes it a bit fun are some of the transitions in between death and life for Tree. The above gif illustrates what I'm talking about, and shows that they directors and editors took some thought into the movie. They were attempting to go further than just a Groundhog Day clone, and the care is evident throughout the movie. It sure helps to speed the movie along - at only 96 minutes, the film is over almost before you really get going. But that also keeps the majority of the film fairly streamlined, which is for the better.
Unfortunately, The movie loses a bit of its steam as it rolls on, frequently forgetting that side characters exist, and ending on a note that is a bit of an obvious one. Had the movie cleaned up a few of the mistakes it made, it could have been a really good one. Instead, Rothe’s performance buoys this film up into average territory. I’m giving it a “C+”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"