Directed by Christopher Landon
Starring Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine, Charles Aitken, Laura Clifton and Jason Bayle
Film Review by Niall Maggs
Happy Death Day is your typical modern horror film, featuring every horror cliché you could think of, but succeeds with an original and interesting storyline filled with lots of tension.
Obviously there is the typical hot girl in the film, like all modern horror flicks, this time played by Jessica Rothe, whose character development is satisfying. At first, she is unbearably rude and irritating, but throughout the film, her character changes to a more likeable person, and the audience can actually root for her. Her performance is also very good. The way she portrays her character is unique and she shows enthusiasm. We'll probably be seeing a lot more of her in the next few years.
The cool, interesting premise is essentially Groundhog Day meets Scream. Tree (Jessica Rothe) wakes up after partying pretty hard a few hours before, all seems normal, she walks home from the surprise birthday party her friends held for her (it's her birthday, hence the name) and she gets murdered. However, just before this happens, there is a cliché abomination of a jump scare... sigh... Straight from this scene you think you know what you'll be getting for an hour and a half. Jump scare, after jump scare, after jump scare. But what we actually get is much better than a cliché fest.
Tree wakes up and lives the same day over and over again, obviously to break the cycle she has to find out who the killer is. Happy Death Day's plot is so intriguing and manages to utilize this, to create a pretty decent horror movie.
The first act is filled with great tension, but unfortunately leads to no pay off, just jump scenes, but these are only really used in this act. The other two rely more on suspense and thrills. The third act is very entertaining, and has more of a comedic undertone, rather than horror, but this works really well for the film. I would even go as far as saying some scenes are hilarious! In particular, near the end is a sequence involving a police officer and Tree, she's in a car trying to escape from the sadistic killer and encounters the cop after speeding in the vehicle. It was genuinely funny, and the ending conclusion is so enjoyable and entertaining that you just end up having a good time.
There is an ending twist, which I won't give away, but it's extremely clever and interesting. There were also great references to other films such as a poster in Israel Broussard's character's (Carter) dorm room of the John Carpenter film They Live, and a genuine Groundhog Day nod right at the end. Christopher Landon's direction is quite good, considering the low budget. The pace was very smooth and never felt dragged or rushed. The overall storytelling is told in such an effective way that you can't help but feel immersed.
The score is barely noticeable but does suit it's purpose, to provide continuous background tension throughout the duration. The suspense created adds to the overall effect of the film, and supplies substance and solidity.
Happy Death Day is subject to countless tropes from every other horror movie in recent years, which does make the film suffer, and with such unlikeable characters in the first half, you just end up hating them. Regardless, it's possible that Happy Death Day will be a cult classic in the future, with great storytelling and an eerie killer who bares the unsettling mask of the school mascot. Effective tension is the backbone of the film and because of this, the flick is very entertaining and enjoyable even for non-horror fans!