Now, you all know I love me some horror flicks with the slasher subgenre being my favorite. The films of yore, showing masked maniacs terrorizing teenagers and being defeated at the end by the survivor of the film (yet never truly dying) only to come back in a sequel is very nostalgic to me and something we haven’t seen lately in theatric horror movie releases.
Don’t misunderstand me, there are quite a lot of horror films in the past ten or fifteen years that have been captivating and entertaining. But I’ve just missed that age of cinema where we’d get a slasher flick here and there that was just pure fun and terrifyingly engrossing. Nowadays, we’re just treated to so many haunted tales, like The Conjuring, Insidious, and Annabelle, leaving “Chucky” and “The Creeper” to scare audiences only in direct-to-disc releases.
There’s just something about a masked-killer-movie that gets the blood pumping and gives the audience that point of mystery—especially if the killer is never revealed, only to be resurrected in a follow-up film.
And that’s what I had expected when I first caught a trailer for the 2017 film, Happy Death Day. Seeing the killer stalking around with a butcher knife and wearing a baby-faced mask seemed all too perfect. Add to that, the story seemed to take on a Groundhog Day vibe, where the focal point of the film must relive her demise over and over again…the film seemed to be the faultless amalgamation in making a slasher for the 21st century. I was interested—yet, not that interested to go out and see it in the theater—and when it was available on Netflix, I gave it a looksee.
After a night of hard partying and heavy drinking, self-centered college student, Tree (Jessica Rothe), wakes up on the morning of her birthday with a serious hangover in the dorm of a guy—Carter (Israel Broussard)—whom his name she can’t remember. Within the course of the day, Tree is murdered by some unknown masked assailant and wakes up to start the day all over again. Tree then realizes she’s re-experiencing the day of her murder—always restarting with her waking up in the same dorm with the same situations—and will end only when she discovers her killer’s identity.
Alone, though, Jessica Rothe seems to really take hold of this part and plays it very naturally, especially the spoiled and bitter college sorority girl. In fact, she plays the part so well, it makes it hard to believe that she could change her ways near the end of this film. At first, she looked familiar, yet I really don’t recognize her from anything else. Looking at her IMDb list of productions, however, she has a list of about 33 acting parts—but nothing I’d ever seen.
The same goes for Israel Broussard, I kept thinking he looked familiar and all through the movie I kept racking my brain as to where I’d seen him before. Glancing through his résumé on IMDb didn’t help much because there was nothing there I’d seen…and it finally hit me—he just reminded me of Hayden Christensen. Perfectly cast as this good kid who decided not to take advantage of the hot girl who he let stay in his dorm room, there was no believable kismet about them when it comes to this flick.
Happy Death Day was directed by Christopher Landon and although he hasn’t directed a slough of films, he’s actually helmed a couple of flicks that had surprised me. In 2014, he directed the Paranormal Activity spinoff, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones and the following year had him overseeing the very entertaining Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse. I can’t say that Landon did anything special with this film, nor can I say he was able to bring out the best in these actors, but the shots were set up nicely and I really couldn’t complain about anything regarding the direction of the film. Writing credit goes to Scott Lobdell and his claim to fame is being the writer of a number of X-Men comic book titles in the 90s. Besides writing the comedic film Man of the House back in 2005, this is probably his biggest theatrical film that he has a credit for writing. Together, these guys really didn’t knock it out of the park, but it was a solid effort.
Even though the plot is similar to Groundhog Day--so you really can’t give the story the recognition for being original—there is one supplement to the plot that I thought was a unique twist to the whole living-out-your-day-over-and-over idea, and that is the little subplot on how the repeated murdering of Tree is taking a toll on her physically. At one point, she passes out and ends up in the ER where the doctor tells her the x-rays show scar tissue and damage from the trauma her body had withstood from the murders she had suffered through. I thought that was a nice touch…though it went nowhere from there after that.
So…what’s my final “bit” on Happy Death Day?
Thanks for reading!