Happy Death Day Parent Guide
This twist on a well-established movie template is better written than expected, but still may not be worth dying to see.
Parent Movie Review
She wakes up in a guy’s dorm room. She can’t recall how she got there. Pulling on her pants and sequined tank top, Tree (Jessica Rothe) says goodbye to Carter (Israel Broussard)—although she can’t quite recall his name—and makes a hasty retreat across campus, passing the typical odd assortment of college students. Walking through the door of her sorority, she’s given a cold greeting by the house mother Danielle (Rachel Matthews). Upstairs she is met by her roommate Lori (Ruby Modine), who produces a cupcake with a candle as a token offering to try and build a friendship between them.
Yes, today is Tree’s birthday, and the narcissistic young woman does her best to ensure the remainder of the day revolves around her. A sorority house meeting and plans for a party provide her with plenty of “drama” opportunities. Finally, she heads out for the evening’s festivities, walking alone in the dark and wearing a skimpy white dress. It’s a moment that screams, “something bad is about to happen”. And it does.
Murdered by a person dressed in black whose face is covered by a bizarre baby-face mask (a strange choice that also represents the school’s football team), Tree’s horrifying end is brief. Then in a moment she awakes, back in Carter’s room, and back at the start of her birthday. It seems this is a day she will live again, and again, and again.
If you are thinking this plot sounds like Groundhog Day, you’re right. But this movie comes with way more violence and a lot less humor. Somewhat like Bill Murray’s weatherman character, Happy Death Day’s replays allow our self-centered protagonist to have many insightful chances to reconsider her attitude toward others. Yet, unlike the established classic, these positive changes aren’t what releases Tree from her curse. Her hope for escaping the daily grind lies in her ability to uncover the murderer’s identity. And the process of eliminating the suspects provides ample opportunities for Tree, and the audience, to relive her horrible demise over, and over, and over.
Curiously, no matter how she tries to change things up, the only results that differ is how she meets her fateful end—by stabbings, strangulation, an explosion and, after a friend is inadvertently killed instead, a self-induced death by hanging. These brutal confrontations are depicted with some blood effects and details.
Adding to the reasons to reconsider this film as a choice for teen viewing is Tree’s reputation for using her womanly ways to get what she wants from men, including a married professor. Although more implied than shown, there are a couple of passionate moments seen on-screen. As well, a female is seen naked in public (partially seen from the rear), a man is caught masturbating while looking at other men on his computer (no explicit detail is shown) and a woman is seen in underwear multiple times. Also featured are infrequent profanities, a sexual expletive, a crude finger gesture, crude anatomical terms and scatological slang.
Admittedly, this twist on a well-established movie template works better than expected and will likely keep the audience engaged because it knows when to quit before the “wake up, insult everyone, get murdered” cycle gets too tedious. Still, Tree’s branching out to become more kind and caring may not make the movie’s violent content and casual sexual attitudes something that’s worth dying to see.Directed by Christopher Landon. Starring Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine. Running time: 94 minutes. Theatrical release October 13, 2017. Updated October 13, 2017
Happy Death Day
Rating & Content Info
Why is Happy Death Day rated PG-13? Happy Death Day is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for violence/terror, crude sexual content, language, some drug material and partial nudity.Violence: The story repeats the protagonist's birthday over and over, including her being murdered at the end of each day. We see the harrowing events in various degrees of detail, and the various forms of killing include stabbings, neck breaking, a baseball bat to the head, strangulation, explosion (she is locked in car that is leaking fuel) and, in a scene where she takes her own life to save another, a hanging. Other violent moments include people run over by a bus and a police officer hit by a passing vehicle. Two characters fight and one is eventually pushed out a second story window -- we see the body on the ground. Verbal bullying occurs. A character swallows multiple Tylenol tablets without consequence.
Sexual Content: A female university student is having a sexual affair with a married professor, we see them meet in his office on two occasions and passionate kissing and embracing occurs prior to them being interrupted. A woman repeatedly awakes in a man's university dorm bed, it is assumed they had sex during the night and she is seen in her underwear getting dressed. A young man is depicted as masturbating (we don't see details) while viewing shirtless men on a computer. Sexual references and other crude discussions are heard.
Profanity: A single sexual expletive is heard and a crude finger gesture is seen. About a half-dozen scatological slang and other profanities are used. Infrequent crude terms for anatomy and a few other sexual references are included. Name-calling and slurs are heard.
Alcohol / Drug Use: A character, who relives the same day, awakens with a headache and swallows the remainder of a bottle of Tylenol tablets. A party briefly depicts people drinking.
Page last updated October 13, 2017
More parents' guide for Happy Death Day after the break...
Happy Death Day Parents' Guide
What factors may be motivating Tree's casual attitude toward sexual relationships? What kinds of consequences might her behavior have for herself and her other partners? How did Carter change Tree's perspective?
How have Tree's parents' decisions influenced her? Is there ever a time when a marital breakup doesn’t affect children?
Living this same day repeatedly is, at first, horrifying. What does Tree eventually do with her days? How does her attitude toward the problem change? What can you learn when bad things occur in your life? How does our attitude help us move past these difficult points more quickly and successfully?