Does the thought of a cross between satirical slasher movie Scream and the time looping romantic comedy Groundhog Day excite you? Then you’ll love the new black comedy movie, Happy Death Day. Cynical college student Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) wakes on her birthday nursing a raging hangover induced headache and in the dorm room of Carter (Israel Broussard) the guy she went home with the night before. Her day only gets worse from there, eventually culminating in her murder at the hands of a killer wearing the baby face mask of their college sports team’s mascot. When she wakes again, she realises she’s returned to life and been magically transported back to the morning of her birthday. This starts a time loop where she’s forced to relive her hangover, walk of shame and birthday from hell each day while trying to figure out who her masked murderer is and stop them.
Happy Death Day is a much lighter movie than I was expecting. It’s more comedy than horror with the death scenes being brief and not at all gorey. There are a couple of jump scares but the eerie horror aspects are a very small part of the movie. Much of the film is set during the day, with bright and colourful lighting and an equally upbeat tone. The humour is fairly typical for a college movie about sorority girls – lighthearted and accessible. The time looping scenario provides some satisfying moments of justice and there are instances where Tree lets loose and enjoys the lack of consequences to comedic effect.
I enjoyed Rothe’s portrayal of Tree. When I saw the trailer I was worried I wouldn’t be able to find her likeable as she seemed to carry a bit of a queen bee, “I’m better than you” air about her. I was pleasantly surprised that when watching the movie, her attitude came across more as badass independence rather than callousness, and the audience gets to see it soften at times as her vulnerability peaks through. I was also extremely happy she was given panda eye, day after makeup and messy hair instead of her waking up perfectly made up like we see so often in movies.
The story is fairly predictable and formulaic, which I don’t consider a flaw. I sometimes seek out movies that will take me on a fun and comfortable ride, with just the right measures of adrenaline and feel good, and a simple story that I can leave behind in the cinema. Happy Death day is perfect if you’re looking for a light hearted comedy romp that will leave you uplifted but probably not any wiser.
Despite a novel concept, Happy Death Day doesn’t bring anything groundbreaking to either the slasher, comedy or time travel genres. It has a fun but predictable story that uses the time looping mechanic for comedic effect. It has a good heart to it and Rothe is endearing in the lead role, but there’s no in your face sentimentality. It’s a great movie if you’re looking for something light and funny that doesn’t require too much thinking.