Endearingly Dumb: Our Review of ‘Happy Death Day’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - October 12, 2017
Endearingly Dumb: Our Review of ‘Happy Death Day’

Sometimes you really just have to lean into the material to make it work…

Happy Death Day will never go down in the annals of filmmaking as anything truly memorable but thanks to some solid direction and above average leading performances who embrace the core nature of the material it all makes for a fun night at the movies as long as you don’t mind it being a little forgettable as well.

A college student (Jessica Rothe) is going through a seemingly normal day in her life; until of course that day ends in her grizzly murder.  But when she wakes up like nothing ever happened she discovers that she is reliving the day of her murder with both its unexceptional details and terrifying end until she discovers her killer’s identity and breaks the cycle of the worst day of her life repeating over and over again.

While there are some admitted disconnects in this material that drifts from flat out satire, to occasionally scary to even mildly hateful; Happy Death Day manages to resonate as a basic intro to horror for audiences from 11-14 and a comedic (and potentially unintentional) ode to the horror of our youth that plays out as a pretty fun and knowingly self-aware ride that does manage to entertain in spite of some moments of pure ridiculous storytelling.

Director Christopher Landon knows that he was handed material that wasn’t dripping with blood and really only occasionally scary, but he also could see the simple but clever spin on to an axis of comedy that the material very readily takes and he leans into it hard.  The movie generates more laughs then scares and honestly rightly so even though the trailer and the marketing department aren’t necessarily doing the film a whole bunch of favors.  The emotion is less about terror then it is about palpable tension and the occasional genuine laugh as our lead character transitions from nasty sorority girl to someone trying to turn her life around after she gets thrown into this very violent version of Groundhog Day.  It gets clunky, trying to be too cute at times but it ends up working against most logic as the script by Scott Lobdell barely holds itself together as it tries to be a little too smart for its own good.  It’s pleasant but forgettable and keeps itself above the high water mark thanks to a strong leading turn in combination with strong direction from Landon who embraces the nature of the material

Jessica Rothe may not have a ton of on screen credits to her name, but she proves herself more than capable of carrying a film from beginning to end.  Filled with charisma and attitude she makes it work and gives us a credible character arc from beginning to end.  Israel Broussard is strong opposite her and plays the unexpected love interest that goes against her initial type exceptionally well.  Sadly the rest of the ensemble just fill basic character slots that are driving the narrative with no extra exposition or even mildly interesting quirks, its all Rothe all the time and quite frankly it’s enough to get the job done.

Make no mistake for anyone even slightly versed in the genre of horror; Happy Death Day is more comedy than horror and that’s actually OK, as long as you go into it with the right kind of attitude.

This post was written by
David Voigt, has been a lover of cinema all his life and an actual underpaid critic for a solid 5 years covering everything that the city of Toronto has to offer. He was a content manager in video distribution industry before that and his love of all things cinema goes back to his first moments in awe looking up at the big screen. His 12 years of experience on the home entertainment side of the business have provided him with a unique view on what is worth spending your hard earned entertainment dollars on. Combine that with his unquestioned love of film, David should be your only stop to find out about the best in film, not only in Toronto, but worldwide.