From the director who brought us Scouts Guide, Zombie Apocalypse and the absolutely awful Paranormal Activity: the Marked Ones, comes as a horror-tinged spin on Groundhog Day that is way more fun and heartfelt than it has any right to be.
The film follows sorority girl “Tree,” played by Jessica Rothe, who, after a wild night of partying, wakes up in a random guy’s dorm room. Everything seems normal until a masked killer pops out from behind a bush and shoves a knife into her skull, thus beginning a birthday no one would want to live through.
This simple premise allows for a quick introduction to the movie’s world and before long the slasher antics turn to extremely fun and energizing results. Originally announced as a 2007 Michael Bay production starring Megan Fox, it is astounding how genuine and irreverent the film became. From electrifying and engaging scenes of suspense to some of the funniest, and borderline offensive, Moments of the Year director Christopher B. Landon and his cast seemed to be firing at max capacity.
Between the university’s creepy baby-faced mascot and the doldrums of everyday student life, the film achieves a great melding of genres that adds to the viewer’s investment in Tree’s situation more than does the modern standard of horror tropes hitting the theatres of late. From a sweet budding romance between Tree and fellow student Carter (Israel Broussard) to the sad implications of her birthday itself, the film is truly improved by the tiniest of repeating details and Easter eggs.
An astounding performance from Rothe is the final edge to the movie as her gradual personal improvement is so likeable and badass that it is almost impossible not to be rooting for her to repair her messy life and to uncover her mysterious killer.
Despite all it does right, the film is somewhat hindered by its PG-13 rating. More of an interference than a total flaw, the restraint against showing the more gruesome side of its slasher history does provide a few moments where you wish you could have seen the result of what had just happened.
A thrilling and entertaining mash-up of genres, Happy Death Day is a film that should not have worked in almost every capacity, yet has prevailed against its obstacles to provide another horror film in an already excellently stacked year to stand amongst its competition as a film that any horror lover should absolutely not miss.