This is far from a horror movie. I mean, yeah, technically it’s classified as one. Technically there’s a mysterious serial killer on the loose, murdering Tree (a name that’s actually real and not used as a joke) over and over while she lives the same day on repeat, but it isn’t scary. In fact, it’s not even a thriller. Or at least it barely constitutes as one. It’s a young adult murder mystery with plenty of comedy to boot, and once it begun to sink in that this was to be the case, I started letting myself have fun with the experience at hand. If you don’t, you’re in for a bloody long 90 minutes, I’ll tell you that.
One scene even sees Tree (I’m never not going to laugh at that name) discussing with potential love interest Carter (Israel Broussard) the similarities between this scenario and the events of Groundhog Day. It’s this type of genuinely funny humour that balances out the plot and redeems its lack of freights. It isn’t enough to overcome familiarities and genre tropes present throughout, or its severely underdeveloped supporting characters, save for Carter, but it makes the film watchable. You’re not going to want to die over and over again just by watching this film. You’ll be happy to live through the experience and come out the other side.
Also great are the film’s performances, especially the actress behind Tree (I definitely could’ve worded this sentence better, but I just wanted another excuse to write out her name as Tree), Jessica Rothe. After her brief appearance in last year’s Best Picture winner La La Land—sorry, just realised Moonlight won Best Picture—Rothe finally receives a leading role, and she makes sure she deserves it. Supporting cast members are largely inconsistent, most over-playing their roles for ineffective comedic purposes, but their screen time is scarce in comparison to Rothe, who nails all elements of her diverse performance.
The main point that I took away from Happy Death Day was that it wasn’t Flatliners, and that’s a very good thing. Universal and Jason Blum nail what they were going for, which is essentially a horror movie version of Groundhog Day, and their attempts are encapsulated simply in the film’s logo. The famous Universal Pictures logo gets about a third of the way through before rewinding and starting over, twice. It’s a simple stylistic choice that tells the audience everything they need to know without saying a single thing.
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