Happy Death Day Blu-ray Review
It’s September 18, Theresa’s birhday. That morning, she wakes up in the dorm of a male classmate who she hardly remembers. Later, on campus, she tries to snub everyone who makes eye contact. At her sorority, she tosses out a cupcake from her roommate. In the afternoon, she tries to have sex (for the nth time) with her professor. That night, en route to a party, she enters a tunnel where a small device plays “Happy Birthday to You.” This leads to her murder.
Her first murder, that is. When she wakes, Theresa (Jessica Rothe, MTV’s MARY + JANE) is back in Carter’s (Israel Broussard, GOOD KIDS) room, slightly confused but still hungover. She goes about her day more or less the same, acting selfish and treating others–including roommate Lori (Ruby Modine, Showtime’s SHAMELESS)–as if they are far below her. That night, she is murdered again.
This sets up the basic premise of HAPPY DEATH DAY, a movie that may seem original to its target audience but that has clear structural links to GROUNDHOG DAY. (This is spelled out near the end by one of the characters, just in case.) As Theresa (nicknamed Tree, for some reason or another) tries to figure out the time loop, she is still stalked and murdered by the same masked wacko. (The mask, by the way, is more funny-looking than scary, sort of a cross between Bugs Bunny and the one in 2001’s VALENTINE.) One side effect of the loop, Theresa finds, is that she is physically weakened more and more after each day. Surely enough of these death days and Theresa will be mush. Then, so, too, will the viewer’s brain.
HAPPY DEATH DAY is directed by Christopher B. Landon, who had a hand in or sole writing credit on the second, third, fourth and fifth PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movies (he also directed THE MARKED ONES). Whereas the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY franchise has worn out its welcome with six entries, HAPPY DEATH DAY manages to do the same in under 40 minutes.
As the movie goes on and on and Theresa’s meltdowns get louder and louder, the viewer does indeed want the protagonist to get out of the loop–but not because we care for her well-being or see she has grown as a human. It’s not even because we want her to unmask and confront her killer. It’s because it’s so hard to care. Theresa is not a likeable character–she’s spoiled, obnoxious and petty, far more concerned with spying on suspects and prancing around campus nude than righting her own wrongs.
HAPPY DEATH DAY has a fun premise, but never seems to have all that much fun with it. It fails to be self-referential or keenly acknowledge the genre’s tropes. It does nothing for itself or its viewers, who may initially be wowed by the concept but may not get the desired follow-through.
Video: 2.40:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. Details are strong and colors are healthy throughout.
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; Spanish DTS Digital Surround 5.1; French DTS Digital Surround 5.1. Subtitles in English, Spanish and French. Dialogue is clear while the soundtrack and SFX comes through nicely.
Worst Birthday Ever (3:14): This short featurette briefly covers the plot and structure of HAPPY DEATH DAY.
Behind the Mask: The Suspects (3:15) looks at the many suspects of Tree’s murder…
The Many Deaths of Tree (1:34): …or murders, as indicated in this piece.
Deleted Scenes (9:22): There are three here, which can be viewed separately or as a whole. They are: “Cupcakes and Killers,” “You Killed Me!” and “Tree’s Final Walk of Shame.”
Alternate Ending (2:21)