DVD Review – Happy Death Day
Before this movie, there was a trailer for Before I Fall, another time-loop narrative, popularized by Groundhog Day (1993). As such, there’s a formula that is applied and adhered. Part of that formula is how the protagonist has to reform her behavior and be nicer to people. The journey that Bill Murray’s character takes to be nicer is a longer trip than the protagonist here. It’s not that Murray’s character was really awful, but his awfulness was rather unwarranted, and recognizably so. The protagonist here has her issues, but I don’t think I would label her as awful. She’s a college student who’s still learning. It’s not like she’s settled in her ways and needs a time loop to change. Even if she were settled, the film presents us with other characters who are considerably worse than her. Given that this film is a murder mystery, obviously the murderer is a worse person. Ultimately, I just didn’t buy why she needs the time loop.
In Before I Fall, the protagonist had to be a better person, despite not being that bad. Yet, as the movie goes along, it’s revealed that bettering herself or saving herself isn’t the singular or even the driving goal. The goal is to save someone else who’s being bullied. That kind of altruism isn’t really present here. There is a bit of a romance in this film, written by Scott Lobdell (X-Men), where sacrificing for one another is present but that’s incidental and not the thematic purpose of this film.
What then becomes the purpose of watching this? As directed by Christopher B. Landon (Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones and Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse), the purpose feels self-same to Wes Craven’s Scream (1996) or the FOX series Scream Queens (2015). It’s just an excuse for slasher horror with a little camp. It’s a borderline spoof of slasher flicks and works on that level. Basically, it’s just about watching the same girl get killed over and over again. The excitement is seeing all the different ways she can be killed, even though she knows she’s going to be killed.
Unfortunately, Lobdell’s script isn’t as clever as Kevin Williamson’s screenplay for Scream and it isn’t as campy as Ryan Murphy’s teleplay for Scream Queens. It lies somewhere in between those two things. It just seems like that there are obvious ways to figure out who the killer is or catch the killer if you know you’re in a time loop that this movie wasn’t smart enough to consider. For example, she could have set any number of traps for the killer. One might think it would shorten an already short run-time, but it would’ve provided a challenge that could have elevated the material.
Rated PG-13 for violence/terror, crude sexual content, language, some drug material and partial nudity.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 36 mins.
January 16 on DVD.