Nerd Caliber
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TV/Movies & Music

October 16, 2017

Happy Death Day Delivers Light Horror Fun

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Written by: Byron D. Zero
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I have fallen out of love with modern horror for some time now, as I find it following trends established by one flagship title and then having it being done to death with slight variations, similar to how comedic parody films of the early 2000s would mock whatever was popular at the time.

Be it torture porn, found footage, or the latest upcoming trend of social media commentary (cringe), I thought I was all set. So I went into Happy Death Day with the absolute lowest expectations, and honestly what I got was a refreshing experience.

Happy Death Day is the story of sorority sister Tree Gelbman (played by Jessica Rothe), a very self-centered young lady who keeps reliving her birthday, because she keeps getting killed.

The simplicity of this premise is what threw me off at first; I took it for a splicing of Groundhog Day and Mean Girls; however this movie had a lot going for it that managed to entertain a jaded old fart like myself.

This movie’s greatest strength was its cast, which is composed of relative unknowns; Rothe’s performance as Tree was delightful and full of charisma, her development into a more likable character was never felt contrived, given the plot device. This was her first lead role in a major production, and I am excited to see what else she does.

Israel Broussard plays Carter Davis, Tree’s love interest and confidant in her birthday time loop. In the midst of her recurring murder, Carter proves that he is the only that she can trust. Broussard plays him less as a savior and more as an average Joe, giving Rothe’s character the time to develop. The two had great chemistry, and while I didn’t care for the “I’m not like most guys” routine in some scenes, I ended up rooting for their romance as Tree was allowed plenty of time to develop feelings for Carter.

I can’t go into much more detail about the other characters without spoilers, but the cast as a whole does a great job in their piece of the whodunit puzzle of this flick.

The writing is decent; the various aspects are handled in such a way that even at their most cheesy, they are at least entertaining. I especially love every single red herring laid out through Happy Death Day, it was as if the movie was saying “I told you who it was, but you took the bait!” when the killer was revealed. Some of the jokes were stale in my opinion though, especially one made during Tree’s second death. It was tasteless frat boy humor and I am glad that they got better as it went on.

Director Christopher Landon enacts every single camera trick he’s learned from directing various Paranormal Activity films; his shaky cam technique would put The Blair Witch Project to shame. Shoddy camera work aside, Landon has a great sense of atmosphere; his horror movie pedigree shines through with every slasher movie cliché, from the death scenes to the big confrontation.

The movie has an even deeper connection to nerdom in general, in the presence of writer Scott Lobdell. He is best known as a comic book writer, working on classic X-Men titles all the way back into the ’90s. Lobdell’s most recent hit was the mutant title Generation X, which he co-created with artist Chris Bachalo.

The soundtrack was standard fare Top 40 stuff, and I don’t imagine it will age well in a few years but I have heard far worse.

Happy Death Day was fun, it was far from perfect but I haven’t had this much fun with a slasher flick since Scream, which is what movie kind of reminded me of.

For a PG-13 slasher flick, Happy Death Day is good choice for a date movie and I give it a 3 out of 5.

About the Author

Byron D. Zero



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