The list of occasion-based horrors is a long one: Halloween, New Year’s Evil, Mother’s Day, April Fool’s Day. Hell, there’s even a Bloody Wednesday for those of you who celebrate Hump Day.
Now, there’s Happy Death Day to celebrate the passing of another year, hopefully without passing (!).
Being a detective in your own murder mystery is quite a conceit, especially so when it’s you that’s being murdered. Delving into cinema’s past, that’s the narrative of D.O.A., a Rudolph Maté-directed 50s film noir in which the protagonist has limited time to solve his own demise before the poison kicks in, and he kicks it (promise, that’s the end of death-related wordplay. After all, why beat a dead horse? ACK).
In Happy Death Day, Jessica Rothe plays Tree (Theresa) a college co-ed who keeps awaking to the same day, day in, day out a la Phil Connors in Groundhog Day, which the movie lazily references toward its end. Worse than Bill Murray’s plight in that one, however, is that a killer in a laminated mask is stalking her, prompting the horror/ philosophical line of inquiry: if a Tree is felled in a college quad and there’s nobody around to hear it…
She soon enlists the help of pal Carter, the undergrad who keeps having to deal with a rather unpleasant and very hungover blonde waking up in his dorm room.
Together, they must orchestrate a plan to move Tree beyond September 18, the day of her repeated, continued (and very stress-inducing) demise.
Happy Death Day has a great premise, and many a commentator has likened the feel to Scream, for better or for worse. Nothing against Scream, but that movie inspired a bunch of inferior self-referential winking horrors in a trend we thought would never end.
Happy Death Day is a Blumhouse production, and knock a star off or add a star depending on your feelings toward that production company. At best, it produces A- solid, capable, if unspectacular efforts (think Sinister or Get Out). At its worst, there’s dismal drek like Fantasy Island.
HDD is solidly in the former camp. It’s pretty sharp, and Jessica Rothe as Tree carries the day with her timing and charm.
*** (out of 5)
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