Review: Happy Death Day
Simple, familiar, but just refreshing enough to get by, Blumhouse has delivered another hit.
One morning, a hung-over sorority sister named Tree (Jessica Rothe) wakes up after a late night out in a dorm room she does not recognize. The room, as Tree will learn repeatedly, belongs to Carter (Israel Broussard), a seemingly nice guy who is different than the usual mix of campus blowhards she’s accustomed to.
Tree leaves Carter’s room and goes about her day, which happens to be her birthday. Everything is fine and normal and full of entitled attitude and toxic friendships until Tree heads off to a frat house for a surprise party. On her way, she encounters a creepy, silent figure who wears a hoodie and a mask of the school mascot, who fairly easily kills Tree (lesson: do not go to Frat Houses or you will die on the way as pre-emptive punishment). Right as she dies though, Tree wakes up in the aforementioned dorm room with Carter, and it is Tuesday all over again.
Tree is killed and relives Tuesday many times, growing weaker with each death. No matter what she does, she ends up being killed at the same time. With each new day, Tree works on solving her own murder and as she does it, becomes a less horrible person. In what is surely the longest day of her life, Tree learns about herself and the people around her and is forced to reconcile who she is and who she wants to be. She is cleverly made out to be both the victim and the saviour, and generally, the script finds a number of fun ways to include tired genre tropes.
The premise isn’t original (obviously) but it is particularly well-suited to horror, which makes it a shame Happy Death Day is middling in its execution. The deaths are delivered with such scheduled precision that there isn’t much room for novelty or fun, and the PG13 rating keeps things frustratingly humdrum. However, what works in Happy Death Day – a tight script, breezy pacing, and a well-designed central character – works really well.
It’s not this generation’s Scream, but there are worse ways to get into the Halloween spirit than taking in some mindless, forgettable, intermittently clever horror.