Pros & Cons: Happy Death Day

Teresa “Tree” Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) wakes up hung over in a stranger’s dorm after a supposed one-night stand. She is not a nice person. After going through a typical day of talking down to people, stringing guys along and hanging out with her equally awful sorority sisters, she is viciously murdered by a masked assailant. Then she wakes up. Yes, she is murdered and then wakes up to experience the same day over again much like Groundhog Day and last year’s Before I Fall. Anyway, she attempts to figure out who the killer is in the hopes of putting a stop to the endless loop that is Monday the 18th.


I do complain about PG-13 horror down below but I will say that despite all that, director Christopher Landon does his best to make the film full of tension and scares. What I appreciated most about the direction in the film is the lack of cheap “boo scares” as well as some of the less conventional moments. We get that moment where the character pleads with another to “stop messing around” and take off the scary mask which inevitably ends with a horrible error of judgment. This movie turns that idea on its head.

Jessica Rothe owns this movie. If there was anything that this movie lived or died on it was the strength of her performance. She shows a good deal of range and character development and also has the unenviable task of making the audience care about her even though she is a garbage person right from the get-go. Her natural transition throughout the movie never feels forced either because of her natural acting ability. Kudos!

That wacky dance sequence was bonkers. I love the idea that this dude invited a girl to his room just so he could club-dance for her. I thought I stepped into a David Lynch movie for a second. The scene that follows the set-up for that is pretty great too and an excellent example of the director using background, lighting and perspective to effectively convey the horror in the film.

The Groundhog Day dialogue reference was cute.


This is just a general negative thing for these types of movies. PG-13 horror! We don’t need it! Go for gusto, guys. I’m not saying everything has to be as bloody and/or disturbing as Human Centipede but at least show some red on those kills. Rothe dies a lot in the film (not a spoiler, it’s literally the premise) and while some of them are interesting and/or morbidly entertaining, a little more viciousness would’ve probably cranked up the ‘fun’ aspect.

We don’t need any more day-repeating movies. Stop copying that framework. There’s only so much more that they can do with it.

RATING: *** ½


Rating System:

Less than * (Actively offensive to one’s intelligence)

* (Brutal; bottom-of-the-barrel)

** (Some elements keep it from being awful but still not very good)

*** (Completely watchable; a rental as old-timers might say)

**** (Great film with a few things here and there keeping it from being perfect)

***** (Flawless; a true achievement)