Halloween weekends are certainly a bag of tricks and treats themselves. A variety of genres try to compete for the number one spot on the box office, and horror movies continue to try to prove their worth. My weekend reviews start with another film in the slasher collection that looks interesting to say the least. Like all horror films, the truth behind the vague trailers can take a number of forms and levels of quality, so I wasn’t sure what I would get on this viewing. What is the verdict? As always read on to find out!
Surprisingly Deep Character: Most slasher films fail in terms of a gripping character to follow the journey with, in order to provide fodder for our demented killer. Surprisingly, Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) has depth hidden within her superficial looks and sorority attitude. Seeing her character evolve over the film changed my attitudes towards her, especially as her sorrows began to emerge onto the field. And even more impressive is how balanced her multiple aspects were balanced into the story, to maintain the development that was so nicely done.
Censored: There are those slasher movies that go over the top to maximize the vomit inducing kills and dismemberments. Happy Death Day, fortunately, is not one of those movies. For a movie about repeating the same day over with a “deadly” conclusion, it keeps things rather clean and to the point, avoiding the mind scarring scenes that will be famous on YouTube. The PG-13 rating should assure you that this is a rather mild horror and won’t leave you sleepless like some other films can.
The Mystery: If you have seen the trailers, you have probably been allured/intrigued as to who is behind that freaky baby like mask. That aspect carries on into the film as you try to piece the puzzle together and solve the Scooby Doo like case. It was the adventure of seeking those answers that kept me invested in the movie, searching for any slight hint to give away the surprise. Keep your eyes open, your minds active, and your thoughts running and you’ll get it within 25 minutes, but otherwise enjoy the ride the director created.
It’s fun: Movies that involve repeating the same day over and over again gets stale fast, because of cheap editing tricks to make the scene seem fresh. Fortunately, Death Day keeps things fun and fairly fresh in the 1.5 hour run time. This movie has plenty of chuckles thrown into the mix, many poking fun at the horror movie genre. Tree’s dialogue itself has that aggressive, sorority girl element to it, filled with passive-aggressive compliments and sarcasm that are well-timed. Throw in some well-developed secondary comedy from secondary characters, and the fun just keeps on rolling with each passing day.
Not Scary: My friend and I both agreed that this movie lacked any real bite in terms of the scare factor. Oh sure, a creepy, knife wielding, baby face mascot wearing killer would have anyone afraid to walk a dark corridor in the real world. With the silver screen barrier though, the movie’s horror element doesn’t do much to build suspense or make you shrivel in your seats. Aside from a few jump scare moments, the comedy aspect of the movie will take over more than the scare component. Sorry you fear feeding fans, no dice on this one.
Little Over the Top: Ridiculous factors are all in good fun when they are timed well and not overdone. Happy Death Day sometimes lost its regulation with the overly ridiculous moments, leading to these eye-rolling proportions that were just eating up time. Some of the death scenes themselves fall in this category, alongside a few repeat sequences of Tree’s journey across the quad. The running jokes themselves also get a little stale, especially when it comes to the rival sorority sister who was directed to be a little too aggressive my taste to take seriously. Oh well, got to love those superficial characters that are meant for comedy alone right.
Some unfinished story elements: While I’m surprised with how much of a story this movie had, no matter how cliché it was, there were still some underdeveloped aspects to the tale. One was a few of Tree’s character development arcs, that started to blossom, only to die out like her character does. A few of these could have further expanded her character, bringing in other characters to help draw it out and adding that dynamic element I like to see. In addition, a few other plot elements were squeezed into the film in a rushed manner, sometimes feeling out of place until they were able to draw it back in with a well-placed plot element. Had the scares been better…this element would sting less, but the story element is a big part and could have used some fine tuning.
Happy Death Day is one of the more fun slasher films I have seen in a long time. It’s a movie that will appeal to many with its fun pace, decent comedy, intriguing mystery, and character that keeps you invested in their life. While this was much better than my expectations, the movie still suffers some from imbalanced comedy gestures, unfinished story elements, and most importantly lack of scares. Therefore, go in there expecting a drama/comedy with a slasher twist and you’ve got the right approach to this movie. Yet, if you are looking for the next psycho thriller… hold your horses for a Redbox rent to capitalize on your investment.
Movie Overall: 7.0