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Happy Death Day: PG-13 Horror Done Right

January 29, 2018

Happy Death Day is a breath of fresh (albeit recycled) air that moves along breezily and does exactly what it intends to do. The purpose of this PG-13 horror romp is to simply entertain and tell a neat riff on the classic Groundhog Day. I love how relaxed and self-aware it was in its repeating day plot and the action/horror takes a back seat behind a very likable performance from Jessica Rothe (La La Land). Her performance is equal parts comedic, charming and self-effacing. She is the rare actress who can say “would you stop looking at me like I took a dump on your mom’s head” and pull it off.

Happy Death Day revolves around a college student named Tree (Jessica Rothe) having a terrible day that keeps repeating. She is the stereotypical snarky sorority movie girl who hates carbs, gets wasted and finds herself in random dorm rooms after a night on the town. Normally, this type of character is killed off in the first act, however, after being killed on campus by a baby mask wearing maniac she wakes up back where she started (in a random dude’s dorm room). Being that this is a PG-13 semi-romantic horror film, the dorm room guy is actually a really nice kid named Carter (Israel Broussard) who ends up aiding Tree in her quest to find the murderer. A neat wrinkle to the repeating day twist is that Tree wakes up each morning feeling the effects of the prior nights killing. Thus, she can’t spend years hunting the killer and only has a finite amount of time before her body fails from too many deaths via a masked baby person.

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The best part about Happy Death Day is that it is fun. Director Christopher Landon (Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones) and writer Scott Lobdell (X-Men – writes for Marvel) keep everything moving along quickly and do a fine job making the 96 minutes breeze by. Happy Death Day is never exciting or ground breaking, but it really doesn’t have to be because it is so heavy on charm. The supporting cast is solid and I really like the head-sorority punk Danielle (Rachel Matthews) who thinks deja-vu is when “someone’s thinking about you while they’re masturbating. I get it like six times a day.”

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Movies like Happy Death Day are perfect for repeat viewings on cable and I think the current Hollywood system isn’t churning out enough of these laid back films that don’t swing for the fences because they are cool with hitting doubles. I’m not condoning lazy film making, I’m just saying there is a place for movies that simply want to entertain and be nice while putting the characters through a whole lot of murder. I’m not surprised by the massive $115 international box office total because Happy Death Day has an easy appeal and it is much better than it had any right to be. I love that it was able to entertain on a relatively tiny $5 million budget and I hope that Jessica Rothe is able to build on her solid performance and get bigger and potentially better roles (I liked Tree a lot).

If you are looking for a fun horror film that brings the charm and makes you want to eat cake I totally recommend Happy Death Day.

The MFF horror czar also wrote a review for Happy Death Day. Check it out!

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