I do not have a problem with “PG-13” horror films. There are a few out there that are actually quite scary. However, there are some sub-genres that must be rated “R” to actually be fully effective. Zombie films are one. What is the point of a zombie film if you can’t see some flesh munching? Another would be the slasher films. If I am going to watch a film about a masked psychopath with a knife killing people, then I want to see some blood-soaked slashing on screen. Can you imagine a “PG-13” installment of the “Saw” franchise? I didn’t think so.
Christopher Landon (“Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones”, “Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse”) gets behind the camera once again for what is essentially a horror-version of “Groundhog Day”. The 1988 comedy even gets a reference in the film. The story centers on college student Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe), who keeps reliving her birthday over and over again. Although the month is never mentioned, we know its’ Monday the 18th. Her day begins with her waking up in the dorm room of Carter Davis (Israel Broussard), a boy she met at a party the night before. She rushes out of the room and heads through the campus, noticing details along the way. As we follow Tree through her day, we learn that she isn’t a very nice person and she treats those around her like crap. By the end of the day, Tree is murdered by someone wearing a college mascot mask (enlarged baby face).
Because Tree is murdered every-time she relives the same day, she realizes (with the help of Carter), that she must figure out who her killer is and stop them or she will never live to see the 19th. Because Tree is not fondly thought of by her peers, anyone could be the potential killer. Despite “Happy Death Day” having quite a few entertaining moments, most notably a montage of Tree getting killed in many different ways, it is crippled by its’ watered-down rating. Another major issue I had was with the reveal of the killer. Writer Scott Lobdell delivers one of the worst red herrings in the history of the genre. I was pretty much certain who the killer was and I think Lobdell thought the audience would figure it out too early as well, so he went out of his way to try and make things more ridiculous than they needed to be.
Rothe is actually quite good here and as her character begins to get used to the fact that she is reliving the same day, we begin to have some fun with it. Unfortunately the final act kills what came before it. “Happy Death Day” isn’t terrible. I would recommend it to stream on VOD for horror fans hungering for something new. I just can’t recommend you going out and spending $12 on a ticket at your multiplex.
By: Marc Ferman