There’s a meme floating around the internet about how the older you get the more you can relate with the killer in horror films, this feeling may have been exacerbated by the trend in these films to make the death scenes fun and the victims annoying. Throw in a cool looking bad guy and the screams quickly switch to cheers when they meet their grisly demise.
Happy Death Day is surely the epitome of that theory. You see “Tree” (Jessica Rothe) is a horrible person and her day get’s worse every time she relives it. Yeah, the twist in this tale is that after she get’s killed she gets to go back straight to the start to do it all again. Starting off with the dreaded walk of shame from a strangers dorm room to her seemingly unavoidable death, this incredibly dislikeable human is horrible to the guy she slept with, horrible to her class mates and horrible to her room mate, it’s no surprise that seeing her repeatable being killed is kind of fun… Not that I’m condoning the acts of a homicidal maniac, but she’s a hard sell as the hero of the piece. The only way I can see this working is if the movie plays out as a redemption piece, like that Bill Murray movie where he see’s his future and gets to change it… You know… Scrooged.
So does the film have redeeming qualities even if the main character doesn’t? Yeah, Tree grows on you (badum-tish), despite needing the threat of a violent death to become a better person, when she starts to display a new found self deprecating attitude to life in pop music montage form, you get a little more invested in her struggle to find out what the heck is going on. Surely if she can figure out how to survive the day it’ll all end right?… That’s how this works right? RIGHT?
Yeah it does.
Joining Tree everyday is Carter (Israel Broussard) the stranger from the night before whose name she doesn’t know to begin with, but ends up being her biggest ally and confidant on this day. He’s a likable guy who you feel sorry for throughout pretty much every incarnation, especially the last one. The rest of the cast is the predictable bland clichés you’d expect in a teen horror film. The jokey American pie roommate, the bitchy head sorority sister, a married teacher who nonces the students and the do gooding best friend. This makes it feel like you’ve seen the film a hundred times, even before they restart the day. This isn’t a deep thinking time paradox movie though (See “Triangle” if you want one of those) it’s all about quick cheap scares and a few laughs for teenagers.
Ultimately it’s something that you’d watch once because of the intriguing concept then instantly forget. You end up more like the characters not re-living the day in this one, it’s just another normal day and another vapid teen horror movie.