If you’d told me going into Happy Death Day, a blatant Groundhog Day ripoff, that I would love it, I would have given you a dismissive look and a shrug. My expectations were skeptical at best going into this movie, but it definitely won me over. Director Christopher Landon utilizes some great visuals while crafting characters that are likable in their humanity and makes good use of the repeating day formula to showcase slasher moments intercut with character moments that make you actually care for their well being. Not to mention a story that is well structured and full of some genuine laughs.
Happy Death Day was a pleasant surprise
Tree (Jessica Rothe) wakes up on in a strange room on her birthday which will also be the day she dies. Of course, after being murdered she awakes in Carter’s (Israel Broussard) room again…and again…and again, presumably until she discovers her killer’s identity. Tree has pissed off a lot of people so there’s no telling who this stuck-up, sorority girl finally pushed over the edge.
Jessica Rothe is outstanding in this movie. She does everything right in this film. From a sentimental crying scene, that did feel a little out of place but managed to still work, to countless deaths, and even managed to break out some great comedic moments, Rothe demonstrated her star power in this movie. She has the potential in basically any genre to be the lead and carry the film. Of course, this movie is helped by the charm of Broussard who made my audience audibly sigh at multiple scenes. His coyness messed with Rothe’s initial arrogance made for a very entertaining on screen pairing.
Some of the more stylistic shots in the film are seen in the trailer. Tree takes a baseball bat to the head and as she falls to the ground it transitions to the dorm room and Carter’s pillow. It’s a cool visual, and one of a few similar transitions. Yet, it’s Landon’s interesting use of cliché horror camera techniques for different moments in the film that are also pretty great. The dutch angles he uses in a few of the chase sequences, the fuzzy fisheye lens as she begins to lose it after the third or fourth day, and the POV shots to help sells certain moments work really well in this film.
Honestly, I never expected to be the voice of support for this film. My daughter came with me and we were both pleasantly surprised. There is a lot to enjoy in this movie and I definitely see the likelihood of rewatching it in the future. Happy Death Day earns the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.