I finally ventured out to watch another horror movie in the theater. I saw the trailers and my expectations weren’t that high, but it looked like a fun movie with an interesting twist on an existing premise. I thought I’d give it a shot.
So my review today is on Happy Death Day, A.K.A. Groundhog Day 2 – Murder Mystery Boogaloo. Obviously inspired by the 1993 Bill Murray movie—a fact that they openly acknowledge—this film takes that basic premise and runs with it in a new and interesting direction. Whereby the main character is stalked by an unknown assailant in a hoodie and baby-face mask, and is doomed to relive the same day over and over, being murdered each time in new and interesting ways.
The film was shot well, with some snappy dialog and it kept a good pace. It handles the necessary repetition of the story without feeling too repetitive. It keeps the viewer guessing about the identity of the killer and it just seems to stay on point from beginning to end. There are no slow, unnecessary scenes. Just straight plot with no filler. After recently watching a few horror movies that tended to meander and stagnate, this was a refreshing change. It’s a light-hearted movie; you might even call it something of a horror comedy, but when it comes to pacing and story structure, this “little” movie has some lessons it could teach to the more serious horror productions out there.
Jessica Rothe who plays the main character Tree Gelbman (I have a hard time picking out names for my stories too but, damn, that’s a rough one) did an amazing job showing her character’s transformation from “Mean Girl” to human being. She was able to play fear, humor, and seemingly whatever else the story required. The supporting characters were played well too. Even if they were written to be a little one dimensional, they were convincing and they did the job they needed to do.
Personally, I always thought of Groundhog Day as something of a horror movie but played for laughs. If you actually imagine yourself in Bill Murray’s shoes, trapped in an infinite loop of time with no hope of escape for possibly all of eternity, not even through death, it’s existentially terrifying. In Happy death day they had the opportunity to expand on this idea and combine it with the more obvious threat of the repeated murders but, unfortunately, they didn’t explore this idea very much.
The main character seems to be only ever afraid of being murdered yet again. I feel like dying would quickly lose its impact after the first two or three times. It definitely does for the audience, and the movie seems to understand this, with the later murders having less suspense and instead coming off as more of a running gag. Without giving away too much, the script does try to keep the overall suspense going by introducing a “permanent” threat, but it seemed a bit contrived and inconsistent. The repercussions were unclear and it wasn’t explained very well, likely because it was so illogical that trying to spell it out for the viewer would raise too many plot holes. I feel like the existential-dread angle, could have been used in place of this plot device to better create the sense of urgency they were looking for.
And yeah, there were a few other plot holes I noticed, and I did spend a significant portion of the movie thinking of ways I would more effectively handle the main character’s dilemma. Really though, many of the best horror movies rely on the fact that the protagonists are pretty useless when it comes to defending themselves or formulating an effective plan of any kind. I’m sure a lot of Crystal Lake campers were actually able to escape Jason, but those aren’t the ones who made it into the movie.
Even with these small complaints, I’m inclined to forgive this movie. I can’t quite put my finger on why, maybe because of its cheeky and self-deprecating style, maybe because it handled everything else so well and wrapped it all up in a neat and streamlined 96-minute package. Or maybe, as a wise man once said, this movie’s got personality. Personality goes a long way.
So if you’re looking for a good, fun, horror movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously. You’ll probably enjoy Happy Death Day. It’s not overly scary, but has some decent suspense and a bit of mystery along with some action and a few laughs. I’d say it succeeded in what it was going for. Check it out if that’s what you’re into.
I give it four and a half groundhogs out of five.