Read how this series with a ridiculous premise came to life. (original review here)
Synopsis: A teenage girl, trying to enjoy her birthday, soon realizes that this is her final one. That is, if she can figure out who her killer is. She must relive that day, over and over again, dying in a different way each time. Can she solve her own murder? (IMDB)
Starring: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, and Ruby Modine
Writer: Scott Lobdell
Director: Christopher Landon
Rating: 14A (Canada)/PG-13 (United States)
Running Time: 96mins
On paper, the film’s premise sounds silly and the title and trailer just further this. While it is undoubtedly silly, it is much more than its silly premise. The term mindless has been thrown around a lot to describe certain films and Happy Death Day was probably one of the best examples of this.
This film has a 14A/PG-13 rating which sometimes works against horror films. On one side it widens its potential audience but on the other side, it sanitizes the proceedings to the point that it takes viewers out of the experience. This was not the case here although it was more of a thriller than a pure horror film.
As mentioned, the story wasn’t original though what set it apart was its execution. It focused on a woman named Tree Gelbman (Rothe) who was forced to relive her birthday and her subsequent murder until she discovered the identity of her killer and stopped them. Don’t worry, the film would never explain how or why that happened (though Happy Death Day 2U kind of did). Starting off as an unlikable sorority girl, over time she would learn the error of his ways as this ordeal forced her to take a deep look at herself. While the story as a whole wasn’t overly predictable, it would occasionally suffered from horror film pitfalls.
While the film would find moments of comedy and drama in Tree’s predicament, the dramatic moments weren’t particularly strong. The plot, for the most part, took a while to get going but once it focused on Tree finally taking matters into her own hands, it got much better. She was thrilling to watch as the bits of dark comedy along the way would nicely break up the tension. The story went in many directions which was fun to watch, however, the film did not necessarily stick the landing with a resolution that may disappoint.
The acting was great across the board with Rothe being the standout as Tree. She delivers a very charismatic performance while being compelling to watch because she wasn’t a traditional female lead in that she was more proactive than reactive. Broussard as Tree’s sort of boyfriend Carter was great as well while having to act the same series of events over and over again. Additionally, his great chemistry with Rothe made them fun to watch together.
Overall, Happy Death Day was a great, mindless thriller that overcomes its silly premise thanks to its smartly-written script and excellent performances.