Film Review: HAPPY DEATH DAY (USA 2017)

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Happy Death Day Poster

A college student relives the day of her murder with both its unexceptional details and terrifying end until she discovers her killer’s identity.


Scott Lobdell


HAPPY DEATH DAY is a teen horror sci-fi comedy in which a college student Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) must relive the same day over and over again until she figures out who is trying to kill her and why.  The day is special because it is also the day of her murder, with both its unexceptional details and terrifying end, until she discovers her killer’s identity.  Why will this day stop repeating if she stops herself from being killed?  That theory is proposed by the script and other time loop movies like the recent BEFORE I FALL, and one should not argue with these rules established in film genres.  No one argues about garlic warding off vampires or sunlight destroying them.  As soon as Tree is killed by the man in a chuckling pig faced mask, she wakes up in the morning in the male dorm room of Carter (Israel Broussard) who took her home after she got sick at the party the night before.

Time loop films have became a genre on itself after the most famous of all, Ivan Reitman’s GROUNDHOG day with Bill Murray waking up everyday to the tune of  “I got you Babe”  by Sonny and Cher.  Another new rule is that the time loop always occur right after the death of the subject.  And it is assumed that if this death is prevented, the time loop will stop and life continues.  Oddly enough no film in this genre bothers to explain the origin of the time loop.  As in BEFORE I FALL, the lead character undergoing the time loop aims to be a better person as her are days repeated.  With this time loop concept, it is wise that the comedy element is added, as one can hardly take this incredible notion as a possible reality.

That said, Tree wakes up in the Carter’s room.  She leaves meets an assortment of characters as she walks across campus to her own girl dorm where she greets her roommate Lori (Ruby Modine) and Danielle (Rachel Matthews) the chief of her dorm.  While going to her surprise birthday party later in the evening, she is killed by the slasher in mask and awakes in Carter’s room again.  The process is repeated.

The good thing about time loop films is that for some unknown reason, no one cannot remember the exact plot of each film.  The most recent of these is BEFORE I FALL which is also about a teen girl undergoing the same demise.  The two films are very similar – both die and wake up the next morning; both are mean girls; both make the identical decision to become a better person.  While BEFORE I FALL is the film with a tighter narrative and arguably better film, this script by  Scott Lobdell is all over the place and contains a significant flaw in the identity of Tres’ killer being totally laughable.

However, as in all time loop films, HAPPY DEATH DAY is not meant to be taken seriously, credible plot or otherwise.  It serves its purpose to occasionally surprise and entertain and this is what these films are only good for.


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