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[Review] ‘Happy Death Day’ is a Sweet Little ‘Groundhog Day’ Slasher

[Review] ‘Happy Death Day’ is a Sweet Little ‘Groundhog Day’ Slasher

Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) has never been the sweetest girl in school. After losing her mom three years prior, Tree retreated back into more surfaced territory, submerging herself in the shallow world of Kappa Kappa Gamma at her college, sleeping with her professor, snapping at her roommate, shaming girls for the size of their meals, and spreading gossip about her sisters all the while. Tree was far too busy getting wasted and stealing her friends’ love interests to come to terms with her unpleasant feelings of grief, or any of the actions she committed while trying to lose herself in the spins. That is, until the day she was murdered – over and over again.

At first, it was less like déjà vu and more like the same old Tree up to her naughty shenanigans again. There was the drinking to excess, the blacking out, the waking up in a stranger’s dorm room with no recollection of how she got there or what the guy’s name was that she woke up next to – just another nameless notch on the bedpost at the end of another graceless night. Just another reason she’s late to class and donning leather pants at lunch. The only difference is, today happens to be her birthday – a day she’d rather forget, since it happens to also be her mother’s birthday. But how was she to know that her birthday would also be the day she was to be viciously killed? And, to make matters worse, how was she to know that today of all days would be the one that she would live over and over, forcing her to face her own death, in several different ways, using many different weapons, over and over?

This is Christopher Landon’s Happy Death Day, and as you’ve probably already guessed, it’s basically like Groundhog Day if Bill Murray were brutally murdered every single night before he woke up to the tune of Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe” the following morning. In many ways, it’s a fun little teenage horror movie that would fit in well with the old who-dun-it style of  ‘80s slashers like The House on Sorority Row and Prom Night. After all, it has a masked killer who stalks his campus prey with a butcher knife and an eye for opportunistic loud parties and long strolls in short skirts. All it needs is a hand-drawn movie poster and a higher kill count.

Still, the film has its issues. Despite the fact that the audience is made aware that Tree’s mom died three years ago, we’re never told how she died, or what purpose her mother’s death serves in this strange repeating scenario, or even why this day keeps repeating like it does. You would think that the fact that she and her mother share a birthday, and that particular birthday is the same day that Tree is being killed over and over again would serve some sort of purpose in the storytelling, or come back around somehow at the end, but you’d be wrong. It doesn’t do much besides create sympathy for a character who might otherwise be unrelatable.

It’s also hard to call it a slasher movie when all of the kills are either off-screen, or Tree wakes up again to find herself in the same dorm room the minute that she’s about to be stabbed by her baby masked bandit again. It may feel like a classic Amy Holden Jones or Carol Frank massacre movie at times, but that’s the one defining trait that truly separates it from its predecessors. It’s a pretty hard PG-13.

However, despite the fact that it’s not quite as bloody as this jaded horror fan would like, it’s still a fun spin on the old day-repeating-over-and-over gag. Tree only has so much time each day to try to figure who is trying to kill her, why, and how to put an end to this madness before she wakes up to that horrible ringtone yet again, and it’s pretty funny watching her deal her sorority sisters and the rest of campus once she realizes that nothing she does matters because no one will remember it the following day. It’s no Saw, but it’s an entertaining scary movie for the Halloween season, even if it is slightly more appropriate for a younger crowd.



  • Necro

    Ahhh another teenage Pussy-13 cash grab! I’m good thanks!

    • Greg Chernoff

      Or it could be a movie made for the teenage girl crowd. Imagine a movie not made for YOU!!

      • Necro

        Just my opinion

      • J Jett

        Greg, i don’t need to imagine a movie not made for me. most seem to NOT be made for me. it would be nice for a slasher movie released today (a quality one which this movie looks like it may be) TO be made for me (and others like me who would like a good hard R rated slasher film).

        • Greg Chernoff

          Red Christmas.

    • J Jett

      yeah, i’m hoping for an unrated/R rated release. wasn’t this filmed as an R rated film but then edited down to a PG-13 rating?

      • Matt-fBR

        I read about the script being written a decade ago as a hard R… But when Blumhouse brought in Landon as a director, he uptaded the script and filmed it as a PG-13 film.
        This might have something to do with his teen zombie flick ‘Scouts Guide…’ flopping at the box office and being rated R.

        • J Jett

          Matt, thanx for the info/clarification! 🙂

      • Necro

        I don’t know about this one, but ‘Wish Upon’ was filmed as an R. It wouldn’t surprise me if it was though. Man that irritates me! Also having a title like that ‘Happy DEATH Day’ and it gets that rating!

    • david

      Give it a chance Necro. It was actually pretty good man. I went in thinking the exact same way as you, but I was really surprised by the movie.

      • Necro

        Ok David will do, thanks!

        • Hayden Koutras

          Surprisingly good watch for the halloween season. not like most PG-13, would have been better with gore and stuff but it was still a really interesting and worthwhile movie!

          • Necro

            Ok Hayden

    • theundead

      Stop whining

  • I’m interested! Particularly if it makes a gateway for the mainstream slasher to return into the zeitgeist.

    • J Jett

      or it could backfire and usher in the return of PROM NIGHT (remake) PG-13 atrocities. just sayin’.

      • Although this is an apparent reworking of Groundhog Day, at least its not a remake.

      • zombie84_41

        What? PROM NIGHT remake was the hallmark of horror it was fantastic best writing ever, the acting was so dead on! Seriously that movie is 100% amazing. I can’t be your friend no more. No more! ^&^

  • Jada Maes

    …No thanks.

    This isn’t even because as a horror fan I firmly believe you got to get bloody. It’s that as a massive fan of Groundhog Day, I don’t think you can just replace Phil Connors with a girl named “Tree.”

    • J Jett

      although the groundhog repeat thing worked very well (IMO) in EDGE OF TOMORROW (but i understand where you’re coming from). 🙂

      • Jada Maes

        Haven’t seen it. I avoid Tom Cruise out of fear of being brainwashed into hypnoyoga or Brainyism or whatever the hell cult he fronts for.

        • zombie84_41

          Cults are good what you talking bout ^&^

          • Jada Maes

            “…And I was not coerced by anyone into writing this! All hail the Hypnotoad.”

          • zombie84_41

            HAHA 🙂

  • MrX13

    Looks like a movie to watch on Netflix or something. Wouldn’t go see it at the theater though

    • theundead

      Umm ok you want a cookie?

    • zombie84_41

      Yeah I’ll watch it on my exodus

  • Colin Perkins

    I’m super good with the idea of a horror made for tweens or teenagers. People need a way to get into horror. You need stuff like Gremlins, Monster Squad, Warm Bodies as a stepping stone to bring you into horror films. As a little kid or tween you can’t get into horror by checking out Ichi the Killer. I’m sorry, but new fans need a starting point or else the fandom will kind of fall apart over time and there aren’t as many horror for tweens and teenagers now. Like Goosebumps was the latest horror for kids and well, that’s really been it. PG-13 only really hurts a film if it started as a hard R and they cut it down to get the rating, cause then you can tell you are only getting a part of the film and you feel short changed. But if the intent from the get go was to make horror for a younger audience then it’s fine. It sounds like that’s the case here so I’ll be seeing this. Got to support the movie that will be somebodies first horror movie!

    • zombie84_41

      but some people will still be scared over this LOL if you get scared over this you need help. HA!

  • Really excited!! I wanna see this movie

  • macguffin54

    Wow, this A-hole really likes ripping off other projects, huh? First Rear Window now Groundhog Day, not to mention Viral, which was pretty much a rip-off of every other movie that came before it. He must be so proud.

    • zombie84_41

      You could write him and email maybe he’ll respond.

  • J Jett

    does anyone know if there will eventually be an unrated R version released on BR/DVD? wasn’t this filmed with blood/gore but then edited down for a PG-13 rating? i liked Landon’s VIRAL. oh and Christopher Landon is freaking GORGEOUS!! just sayin’.

    • david

      I do hope they release an R rated version because I’d definitely watch the movie again if it had more violence and some nudity. It was still a really good movie considering that it’s a PG-13 rated horror film.

    • zombie84_41

      Yeah prob be some unrated version has to be right. If they gave us an unrated CRY WOLF back in the day then this needs to be too. Viral was rad.

    • Barry El Beardo

      Yeh he’s really cute.

      Needs beefing up a bit though 😉

  • That ‘Byeeeeeeeeeee’ bit in the trailer is so dead on! Hilarious! I know so many girls that say that lol

  • david

    Guys I went to a sneak preview of Happy Death Day tonight, and I would definitely recommend the film. I’m someone who normally tends to stay away from PG-13 rated horror movies, but Happy Death Day was very good. Of course it would’ve been better with some gore and some titties, but it’s definitely a movie that I would recommend someone pay to watch in the theater. I might actually go watch it again this weekend since i got to see it for free tonight.

    • theundead

      If it had gore you would’ve whined about having too much gore and if you want titties go watch porn

  • Unknown User

    My favorite horror movie of all time is triangle

    • Cool movie!

    • Tessa Pants

      I thought the same thing

  • zombie84_41

    I think it looks rather dope.

  • Since Happy Death Day was announced, seemed to be a mix between Scream (1996) and Groundhog Day (1993), a story about a sorority girl getting killed and needing to repeat her day again, again and again was a really nice concept. However my expectations went low when I the movie was rated PG-13. I mean how it’s possible to do a good slasher without blood and violence?

    This movie has a good plot, the characters are really nice, I was interested in all of them and trying to guess who was the killer since the movie start. Sometimes tries to break the usual horror movie cliches and that’s amazing. There are a lot of funny moments (some jokes are a little naughty for a PG-13 film, but still great).
    In my opinion the biggest problem is the lack of violence because some death scenes would be so amazing and funniest if the producers decided to add some blood and gore (like some Final Destination’s deaths), however the worst problem is when Happy Death Day tries too hard to be different and surprise the viewer with some revelations that don’t make sense.

    That’s one of the worst plot twists I’ve seen in a horror movie. Near of the 3rd act, Tree Gelbman figures out the killer is a random serial killer that just likes to kill young girls, it doesn’t make sense, because how it’s possible that guy know some secrets about the protagonist?
    Then we figure out the real killer is just an annoying girl from the sorority, she used the serial killer to put an ending in Tree’s life. When the main character asks why she’s doing this the villain just gives an explanation like “you have an affair with the guy that I love”. For me that was awful and really confusing in someway.
    I would prefer a plot twist where we had 2 killers working together, Tree figuring out his identity, surviving and thinking that wouldn’t die and repeat the same day again, but she’s surprised by another killer and figures out there are 2 killers and not just one. They could be just 2 “friends” of her giving the explanation they hated her in due of the bad things she used to do to everybody.

    Happy Death Day tries to be different and it’s in someway, however is also a victim of its own mistakes as the PG-13 rating and the confused and bad plot twist.

    Rating: 6.5/10

  • dukeblues

    It looks atrocious and is everything I hate about modern horror. I’d rather watch F13 and Halloween reruns at the movies. Looks like Scream, which is to say it looks like teen drama garbage.

    • PC

      Hey I don’t wanna ruin anything for you… but F13 and Halloween are about teenagers too.

  • Halloween_Vic

    I was a bit disappointed, I mean it was ok and had funny moments but the chase scenes where literally like 10 seconds each scene and kind of left me wanting a better story and some more chase scene and I mean the killer has a mask, black hoody, and a kitchen knife. Some “Scream” type chase scenes would have made this more enjoyable to be honest.

    • Angela M Campany

      Exactly my problem with it too !

  • Evan3

    I checked it out. It’s a breezy film that’s heavy on the fun. The director and writers didn’t care about any real logic (even the killer’s reveal is completely random), but the movie is so light and fun that it didn’t bother me. A mild recommend.

    They also expressly address Groundhog Day in the film. Sadly, I learned many audience goers (most of the audience was under 18) had no idea what Groundhog Day was or who Bill Murray was (one kid said they thought he was an old Cubs player). Sigh…

  • Doug Bledsoe

    where do i find the uncensored nude walk she does across campus? i would have had her get undressed when she wakes up in that guy’s dorm room and just walk across campus than as she is going into her sorority you see the full frontal. When she gets up to her room and lori says look who just walked in you see tree sit down look at the time and realize she late for class and she looks at herself naked masturbates and then leave. When Lori asked if she is just gonna go to class naked and leave her clothes there she says why not.

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