A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Happy Death Day is a slasher movie with fantasy and comedy overtones. The main character (Jessica Rothe) is stuck in a time loop, à la Groundhog Day, suffering a violent death over and over again until she figures out how to break the cycle. Considering the movie's premise and genre, the violence is actually on the milder side. Stabbings happen offscreen, but blood is shown on knife blades, and there's a brief spatter when a character falls from a high window. Characters are also hit with blunt objects and run over by a car. There's also some racy content. Sex among college students is spoken of, though not shown. But a male college student is shown preparing to masturbate to porn (there's a computer image of two men kissing), and a young woman walks naked through the quad (nothing graphic shown). Characters also kiss, and the main character has a short-lived affair with a teacher. Language includes a use of "f--k," plus "s--t," "p---y," "a--hole," and more. Teens talk about drinking and being drunk, but no one is shown drinking. The movie is gleefully aware of its silliness and could be a strong draw for teens; luckily, there's an underlying message about thinking about others instead of just yourself.
What's the story?
In HAPPY DEATH DAY, Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) wakes up on the morning of her birthday; she's hung over and in a strange dorm room, which turns out to belong to the helpful Carter (Israel Broussard). Tree goes about her day, which includes a lunch meeting with her nasty sorority sisters and a closed-doors rendezvous with a married teacher. At night, on her way to a party, a killer in a creepy baby-face mask stabs her. Then Tree wakes up, and it's the same day again; she's reliving it over and over, meeting the killer every night, and dying violently. One day, Carter wonders whether, if she can discover the killer's identity and save her own life, it could break the cycle. Unfortunately, she starts feeling weaker each morning, as if her "lives" are running out. But then she finds out that an escaped killer, Joseph Tombs (Rob Mello), has been lurking nearby.
Is it any good?
Though it obviously borrows from Groundhog Day, this gleefully silly slasher movie has a playful spirit, likable characters, and even some half-decent life lessons. Director Christopher Landon (Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse) finds just the right tone for Happy Death Day, starting with Tree's introduction as a self-centered jerk. Tree is kind of horrible and not very savvy -- she's certainly never seen any horror movies and has no idea how to fight off a masked killer -- but she's fully human, and she grows on you.
When, like Bill Murray's Phil in Groundhog Day, Tree has time to evaluate her life, she starts trying to set things right, and her attempts are wonderfully endearing. As for the movie's slasher elements, they're not terribly gory or scary; they seem to be in line with the movie's lighthearted tone. But fans of slasher movies will certainly enjoy some of the clichés Landon plays with (in some ways, Happy Death Day isn't dissimilar to Scream or The Final Girls in that regard). In short, Happy Death Day is aware of what it's up to, but not in a way that prevents you from enjoying the story or the characters.
Talk to your kids about ...
How scary is the movie? Do you consider it a horror movie? What's the appeal of this kind of movie?
How does Tree change over the course of the movie? What does she learn? What do you think you'd you do if you lived a single day over and over again?
- In theaters: October 13, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: January 16, 2018
- Cast: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Rob Mello
- Director: Christopher Landon
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 96 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: violence/terror, crude sexual content, language, some drug material and partial nudity
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.