Happy Death Day feels all too familiar.
Nothing about this movie’s lazily constructed premise, plot, characters, or dialogue is impressive. Each scene drags on and does nothing but remind the audience of how much better that Bill Murray movie from 1993 was. Every component of this film is badly produced, starting with the premise.
This Groundhog Day lookalike does very little to expand on the original “repeating the same day over and over” idea. The main character, a sorority girl named Tree (Jessica Rothe), does not make any realistic human decisions throughout the movie. When she realizes her day is repeating over and over every time she dies, she decides to try to identify her killer instead of just trying to survive the day to see what happens. This is a lazy excuse for a bunch of weak jokes, as Tree stalks all of the people who may have an issue with her and confirms that they aren’t the ones who kill her by dying with them in her sights. The plan is so utterly ridiculous that it takes the viewer out of the action and leaves them wondering why such a nonsensical idea made its way into the film.
The plot is no better. Unlike Groundhog Day, where Phil actually wants something and uses his situation to achieve that while also improving as a person, Tree changes for no reason and her only desire is escape. She is an awful, rude, and unfeeling person when the film begins, but transforms into a kindhearted girl for absolutely no reason other than the fact that the day restarts over and over. The only explanation given for her conversion is that some people that she thought were losers were nice to her, so she started to be nice. That’s about as cookie-cutter as a character arc can get.
Cookie-cutter can be used to describe Tree and the rest of the characters as well, because every character is predictable from the moment they are introduced. Tree starts out as narcissistic and insolent but eventually changes her entire persona because one person was nice to her. The “loser” named Carter (Israel Broussard) whose room Tree wakes up in every morning ends up being kind to her and because of that she falls for him. The amicable roommate Lori (Ruby Modine), who is overly caring toward Tree even though she’s terrible to her, ends up not actually being all that pleasant after all. The instant these characters are introduced, it is irritatingly obvious what their character arcs are going to be. Not to mention the stagnant characters that are added into the film for no reason whatsoever, like the teacher who Tree was hooking up with to get good grades but stopped seeing because she’s such a good person now. That character plus a few others have no character arcs and are given significant screen time to essentially do nothing. No critical thought was put into the creation of the characters, and it didn’t help that the acting was just as bad.
Last, and maybe most egregious, was the dialogue. This film tries really hard to be a comedy but every character talks like a generic unwitty person with not even the slightest sense of humor. Probably the worst line of dialogue appeared almost immediately in the film, as Tree is confronting a guy who is obsessing over her.
As she walks away from him, she insults him.
“What kind of a guy takes a girl to Subway? It’s not like you have a foot-long,” she said.
The joke honestly would have been funnier had the second half been left out, and is one of many opportunities for good jokes missed throughout Happy Death Day. The writers assigned to this film had no grasp of comedy whatsoever and severely disappointed on what could have been a decent “so bad it’s good” comedy-horror film.
The “twists and turns” of this film are just like the characters: predictable and underwhelming. The final reveal is so obvious that it’s funny and the resolution that follows is worthy of standing up and leaving the theater. The only good twist in the entire film happens in the very last scene, and even that doesn’t make a bit of sense. The kills are boring and uninspired, and the apparent omniscience of the killer is so unrealistic that when the person behind the incredibly stupid “school mascot baby” mask is revealed, the viewer immediately realizes that it would be almost physically impossible for that character to be the killer. The writers couldn’t figure out how to properly portray time in this film, as the distinct events that happen every morning seem to only occur at the exact time when Tree walks by them even though she spends different amounts of time in Carter’s room each day. It makes no sense and is increasingly frustrating the more times it happens. Happy Death Day is an experience that nobody should want to live through twice.
Features Image by Blumhouse Productions