Happy Death Day - This Groundhog Die Of A Movie Rocks
Dir: Christopher Landon
Starring Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine, Charles Aitken
Welcome to Groundhog Die! The strangely named Tree (Rothe) wakes up one morning in the dorm bed of Carter (Broussard), a little the worse for wear and uncertain of how she got there. As her day progresses she sees numerous signifiers – her ring tone goes off alerting her to the fact that it’s her birthday, a young woman thrusts a petition in her face, a couple get soaked by sprinklers, her roommate has made her a cupcake for her birthday. Oh, and she gets violently murdered that night on the way to her surprise birthday party by a man wearing a babyface mask and wielding a knife straight out of Scream. All of these are things that you are likely to remember if you were to wake up again the next morning and live the same day over again. And sure enough, that’s exactly what Tree does. Over and over again – with subtle variations of course. Once she wises up to whatever the hell is going on, she seeks to change the outcome, at which time the killer (whoever it may be behind the mask) finds a new and equally gruesome means of murdering her. (She, in essence, Lives. Dies. Repeats.)
That’s the basic premise of Landon’s film, and whilst you could hardly call it original, it certainly knows how to have a lot of fun along the way. It also benefits greatly in having such a winning central performance in Rothe, who is bright, feisty, empathetic, and extremely watchable.
Another low-budget offering from BlumHouse this one eschews the house style of "hush now/BANG! later" and plays things a lot lighter, creating in Tree a contemporary empowering female almost-hero, with a smart sense of humour as well as a strong will to survive.
As with Groundhog Day, this movie offers no real explanation of what the hell is going on or why any of this is occurring – which is probably a wise move – and also manages to keep one or two surprises to the end.
Happy Death Day may not be the most original horror movie in town, but it’s certainly one of the most thoroughly entertaining of late, with a strong heroine and a sense of fun that belies its moments of conventional horror. If it’s possible to have a fell-good slasher movie, this may well be it.
And it eventually even openly acknowledges its prime inspiration by name-checking Groundhog Day. Although perhaps its most incredulous moment is having a smart young woman like Tree not knowing who the hell Bill Murray is. Now that’s just ridiculous!
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