When a horror movie is announced to be PG-13, there's almost always a fleet of genre fans with something to say.
Films like the second remake of Black Christmas or Happy Death Day are examples of genre films that faced that critique very early on. The film Black Christmas hit a massive roadblock with moviegoers and a box office return, Happy Death Day was one of the rare exceptions to finding its place with audiences.
The 2017 movie was made on a budget coming in at under $10 million, with a profit of approximately $125 million — leading to the 2019 sequel, Happy Death Day 2U. Though the film wasn't as big of a hit as the first, it still managed to earn an impressive $65 million, a sizeable number for a genre film aimed at younger viewers.
In a recent interview discussing the film and its rating, director Christopher Landon opened up about the PG-13 choice, saying it worked, "Because, you know, as a rule, you don't actually see the moment of Tree's death, it was always sort of an implied thing, but you're really catching it right before she dies. So it worked, I think, in its favor, and also just because it felt like a sweeter, kind of broader movie." On the other hand, Landon's film Freaky "had to be gory and bloody, just for contrast purposes. There was something, to me, very amusing about this sort of shy, sweet girl in high school, and suddenly she walks around brutally murdering people. So it just kind of worked better for me."
As someone who had reservations of my own, Happy Death Day did genuinely work with the intention of playing up the lighter aspects of the film — and being a youth-friendly horror film is always something important for future generations of genre lovers anyways.