Vol. 10, No. 3 – Nov 8 – Nov 21, 2017 – Movie Review

Happy Death Day Review:
2 Palm Trees out of 4

by Manuel Reynoso

Happy Death Day is a 2017 American slasher film directed by Christopher B. Landon, written by Scott Lobdell and starring Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, and Ruby Modine.

When Theresa “Tree” Gelbman’s birthday ends with her murdered by the hands of a baby faced killer, she finds that she is forced to relive the day over and over again. She is forced to relive the trauma each day till she discovers who her killer really is.

Around October to November, there is always this lull in the movie industry. Hollywood seems to save all its hot garbage for this time of the year, so I’ve learned to not really expect much. Sure a couple films will surprise me, but I don’t hold my breath. So leading up to its release, I thought Happy Death Day would comfortably fit in with the rest of the soon-to-be bargain bin tier movies that find its way on screen this season. So, consider me surprised when I can genuinely say that Happy Death Day was not terrible.

Happy Death Day was actually a pretty fun watch. Things can get a little cliche at times, but that’s okay. I never got the impression that Happy Death Day took itself too seriously. Characters are written to come off like they are in some dumb teen movie, but it does feels by design. In a way, it helps to keep the viewer’s suspension of disbelief going. Actions are questionable, but it helps to write off the characters as just dumb college kids instead of outright blaming the film for poor writing.

There’s isn’t much to compliment Happy Death Day about in terms of its production. The acting ranges from cringey to serviceable at best. Camera work does shine on occasion, but mostly plays it pretty safe. Except, the film does have a few scenes with some surprising spectacles. Otherwise, the film doesn’t do much to stand out production-wise.

Now, Happy Death Day’s biggest issue is that it finds itself shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Groundhog Day and All You Need is Kill. The looping day gimmick has been done a few times before and done very well. I was skeptical as to how it will differentiate itself from previous iterations but was sure that it would find some unique twist to it. However, it doesn’t take long to realize that it follows very closely to the beats and structure of Groundhog Day. Aside from the menacing, baby-faced killer hunting our hero down, the protagonist’s character develops identical to Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day.

Typically I don’t like to be so overt in comparing two films together, but I find Happy Death Day plays very safe with what would otherwise could have been an interesting take on the time loop story. While playing it safe isn’t normally a big problem, the issue here is is that the film is entirely too predictable. If from just watching the first 15 minutes of the film, I can conclude exactly how the story will play out. That’s no bueno. Aside from that though, if you are in desperate need to visit the theater, and want something light and fun. Happy Death Day can be a good time, just don’t think too hard about what’s going on. Rated R 1h36min

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