Blumhouse Productions’ latest horror, Happy Death Day, puts a horror spin on the 1993 classic Groundhog Day. The story focuses on Tree (Jessica Rothe), a college student going through her normal day-to-day routine that ends with her birthday celebration later that evening. Before Tree can get to her party, she’s killed by a stranger in a black hooded sweatshirt and baby mask (the baby happens to be the mascot of her college). After dying a gruesome death, Tree wakes up and realizes she’s reliving the same day over and over again. She will be murdered every night by her killer until she can figure out who’s behind he mask.
Happy Death Day is a missed opportunity. It could’ve been a delightfully fun horror movie, instead it misses the mark. First, it’s more of a comedy than a horror film. It’s painfully obvious during a goofy montage of Tree searching for her killer, only to be murdered in hilarious ways while whimsical pop music plays in the background – they could’ve easily sped up the montage and played Monty Python music in the background.
Second, Tree is unlikable to a fault. I understand trying to make her a coarse, cold college student who learns a valuable life lesson along the way – it doesn’t quite work with her character. Jessica Rothe is great as Tree, but the character is so self-centered and unbearable, it makes it easy to cheer for whomever is trying to kill her. It’s nearly impossible to care about Tree, even when she starts down her road of self examination.
Third, the film would’ve worked much better if the premise focused on someone was living the same nightmare every day – like a reoccurring nightmare on film. There’s a moment where Tree is slowly losing her mind from reliving the same day and her body is reacting to her multiple deaths, yet the movie unexpectedly abandons those darker ideas and turns into a Halloween episode of One Tree Hill.
Even with the story being 60% comedy, they manage throw together a few jump scares and interesting action scenes. There’s some good comedic beats and humor that works really well. The plot never commits to being a horror film and that’s what stops the movie from being the smart horror movie it could’ve been.
Happy Death Day is simple horror film that manages to be enjoyable despite the glaring missed opportunities. It’s less slasher and more silly. Rothe is charismatic enough to carry the film through some of the dead spots and deliver charming horror film that will pacify audiences until the next horror film hits theaters.