Theresa "Tree" Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) dreads her birthday because it reminds her of her mother, (who shares the same birthday) who died three years previously. Her misery is further compounded when she is killed by a baby face mask wearing killer. However, Theresa “wakes up” again and quickly realises that the events of the day are the exact same as the one before. To break free from this never ending curse, Theresa must find a way to break it and perhaps finding the killer’s identity may do just that.
Happy Death Day have been labelled as a film where Groundhog Day meets a teen slasher in the mould Scream. While this description fits snugly enough it’s not entirely correct. The film does proudly wear the Groundhog Day elements on its sleeve, and it uses the same day plot point wittily enough but it does lack that self-referential aspect that made Scream such a scream. It does deal with the repeated day trope quite enjoyably with the central heroine trying, and often failing, to escape clutches of her killer in a series of amusing ways.
Where the movie also distances himself from the likes of Scream and any other classic slasher film is the district lack of gore. To keep within the boundaries of its target audience the film cuts any from any potential gore leaving the film a little limp regarding its horror aspects. It’s so tame in fact that the 15 rating just seems wrong, and the film could have gone a lot further than it did when pushing its age rating.
Naturally this would risk the 15 (PG-13) rating that has inevitably helped the film become a rousing success with its crowd-pleasing tropes and cast of characters from the geeky guy who gets the girl to the dumb jock. The horror aspects may work for a younger audience less aware of the tropes of the genre, but any somewhat seasoned veteran of horror cinema will find the film’s horror aspects severally lacking.
Despite some misgivings (namely the lack of gore and its weak horror elements), Happy Death Day is entertaining as it uses its central plot trope in an enjoyable manner. It’s very much like Groundhog Day, and the film isn’t ashamed of that, but not quite as good, but its surprising how easy it is to find yourself carried along by the bitchy bitches being bitchy and Jessica Rothe’s entertaining central performance.