The idea behind "Happy Death Day" isn't new. Duh, everybody knows that! But wait, actually, I'm not talking about the obvious link with "Groundhog Day". Practically every reviewer around here already referred to the Bill Murray classic, and even the film itself mentions it as an obvious influence. What I mean is that more or less the same plot concept has already been used in the horror genre as well. In 2006, at the Brussels Fantastic Film Festival, I saw a neat little movie called "Gruesome" (also known as "Salvage") and the plot is identical to "Happy Death Day". That film ended up in total indie-obscurity, whereas "Happy Death Day" became a tremendous big hit. Too bad, because "Gruesome" is a fun and competent, albeit insignificant little horror gem. And "Happy Death Day" is just that, too!
I'm surprised at how much I enjoyed this light-headed, tongue-in-cheek and spirited horror comedy. Director Christopher Landon ("Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse") knows exactly what type of ambiance a tale such as this requires. The film luckily doesn't take itself seriously, and in that case, I also mercifully forgive the copious errors in logic & continuity, as well as the lack of excessive gore & bloodshed due to the dreadful PG-13 rating. Tree - short for Theresa, apparently - is a college student of the most obnoxious and loathsome sort. In fact, her entire sorority behaves like the girls in the hilarious series "Scream Queens". Tree thinks she's better than everyone else, humiliates her fellow students, sleeps around with professors, and is generally unpleasant to be around. She gradually changes, however, when she's unwillingly forced to relive her last day (simultaneously her birthday) over and over again because it always ends with getting butchered at the hands of a mean killer with a baby mask. Why a baby mask? Because it's the mascot of the local campus football team, and the masks are sold in every shop on every corner of the street, so literally everybody can be the killer. I must admit I really loved the performance of lead actress Jessica Roth. She carries the film seemingly without effort, her transformation from a cold-hearted shrew into a likable heroine almost comes naturally, and she has good chemistry with her male co-star Israel Broussard. "Happy Death Day" is a slasher, and I still think that slashers must contain extreme violence, and therefore cannot be rated PG-13. Hence, I can't bring myself to give a rating higher than 6/10, but it was a fun little movie and I will definitely watch the sequel(s).
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