The other day I was looking for something to watch and Mrs AcidBurn suggested two films Happy Death Day or American Satan. I watched the American Satan trailer and decided I wanted something more horror based, so Happy Death Day it was. Now it might be PG-13 but that can easily work for horror films if it’s done well, if not you can end up with an unemployable MTV style teen film. So which is Happy Death Day?
Director – Christopher Landon
Writer – Scott Lobdell
Stars – Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine, Charles Aitken, Laura Clifton, Rob Mella and Rachel Matthews.
Budget – $4.8 million estimated
Run Time – 96 minutes
Tagline – Worst. Birthday. Ever!
If you don’t know the basic premise of a film based on Groundhog Day then I’m not sure where you’ve been for the past few decades. This is a tried and tested basic story where someone repeats that same day over and over again, it’s a recurring story in several TV shows when they need to do a humorous episode. Stargate, X-Files, Supernatural and Star Trek have all tried this style of episode. So the question is how do you convert this into a horror film?
Tree is the main character and after a night out the day before her Birthday she wakes up in some nerds dorm room, he’s clearly not her type. She’s popular and a bit of a dick and he’s well he’s a nerd but I’ll leave it to you to guess where that part of the story goes. Tree sets about her day which ends with her being killed, however instead of being dead she simply wakes up in the same nerds dorm room. No matter what she tries she ends up dead at the hands of a killer with a baby face mask on. She avoids the places she dies in but it’s no good, whatever she tries ends the same way.
So Tree realises she has to work out who is killing her, cue several scenes where she knows what she does doesn’t matter at all, people always go a bit crazy in the Groundhog day stories. What the film does really well is place a fair few suspects into the story, there’s an up her own arse sorority girl who lives in the same house as Tree, there’s her creepy ex-boyfriend (they only had one date), there’s the doctor she’s having an affair with, the doctors wife, the oddball room mate it really is quite a long list. As I watched I believed it could be any of them, however there’s the odd clue here and there to identify who it is that keeps killing Tree.
As she begins to try and work out who it is that’s after her she begins to realise that Carter, the nerd whose room she wakes up in is actually a pretty nice fella. This all leads to her uncovering who is after her after a series of tense chase scenes in various places, the final battle and reveal is really well done.
- The PG-13 rating really serves this film well, I’ve read that the original script was for an R-Rated film but I don’t think that would have improved this movie at all.
- I’d not heard of Jessica Rothe who plays Tree but she’s great as the lead actress in this film. In fact despite having no names virtually everyone in the film plays their part really well.
- The kills although being non gory fit the tone of the film real well.
- As always with the time loop groundhog day story the scenes where the character realises everything they do is pointless always stand out. I won’t reveal them as I try to keep things spoiler free but when Tree realises she can do what she wants it leads to a great scene eating lunch with her sorority sisters.
- Maybe I’m just being a bit slow but I really didn’t work out who the killer was!
- The mask is cool, kinda normal but still kinda freaky.
- I’m not sure if this is bad for most people but if you’re looking for definitive answers at the end you’ll be disappointed, sure we find out who the killer was but we never find out why she was trapped in the time loop. Maybe we’ll find this out in the sequel.
- I can see how someone wouldn’t be keen on the mask.
- There’s a couple of “why don’t they just do this” but then aren’t nearly all slasher films like that?
The fact that the only “bad” things I can think of are those two says everything about this film, it’s acted well, it tells a decent story and is an all round enjoyable film. It’s suitable to watch with people of all ages and it never tries too hard. If you’ve got 90 minutes spare one Sunday afternoon then this would make for perfect viewing.
Overall Rating 8.5/10