Friday the 13th horror movie offers only jump scares
By: Charlie Lott, Columnist
“Happy Death Day” is a horror/mystery/comedy film starring Jessica Rothe as a cruel and self-obsessed college student Tree. While the movie does have its share of laughs and cool action scenes, most of the horror comes purely from jump scares and the ending is largely predictable.
Tree wakes up on her birthday to find herself in a stranger’s dorm room after a night on the town. She goes about her daily routine, generally just being a jerk and making it clear that she has lots of potential enemies. At the end of the day, she is attacked and brutally killed by a mysterious person wearing a baby mask, the school’s mascot. Instead of dying, however, Tree abruptly wakes up… only to realize that she is in the same day she just lived through.
With the help of her friend Carter (Israel Broussard), she figures out that she will continue being murdered by the masked figure and continue to wake up the morning of the same day until she solves her murder and keeps it from happening. She makes a list of all of the people she has wronged, including her sorority sisters, the man she’s having an affair with, and countless other students on campus, and takes it one day at a time, dying over and over again without learning anything. The question becomes: does she truly have unlimited lives, or will she eventually reach the end for real?
The plot of the movie, although it takes from the Bill Murray classic “Groundhog Day,” is clever, especially for a horror movie. It allows director Christopher Landon to create as many grisly death scenarios as he can fit in the time frame. The execution is where things fall short. Most of the deaths are simple jump scares: seeing the murderer pop out from behind a tree, in the reflection of a bathroom mirror, through a window. A more identifiable villain would have made things far scarier than countless boring killings.
“Happy Death Day” also falls a bit short in the realm of mystery. At first, the movie does a great job of presenting about a million people who might want Tree dead, but after only two days stuck in a loop, about half the theater was shouting the same name, because everyone had already figured out who was behind the baby-faced mask.
One of the saving graces of the film is the comedy. It is funny in a sadistic sort of way – something just makes you laugh about this poor girl getting killed over and over by the same person without being able to do anything about it. Even funnier is her idea of how to end the cycle and stop the masked man; she follows around each of her friends individually for a day to try and learn if they are the one behind it. Why not just buy a gun and wait? One bullet, cycle over, wake up in a new day the next morning.
True fans of horror will not be scared by this movie. People looking for a good mystery will not be surprised by the ending. Moviegoers who want a good laugh might walk away happy, but questioning the decisions made by the protagonist. Don’t get me wrong, this movie is fun in a gratuitous sort of way. Jump scares can be scary, and watching gruesome death after gruesome death can be entertaining. “Happy Death Day” is just not the kind of movie that is going to keep you excited from beginning to end.