So tell me if you’ve heard this concept before: A bitter, mean-spirited person, by a strange stroke of nature, is forced to relive the same day over and over again, and in the process of trying to break this cycle learns to be a better human being. Most would probably say yes, thinking of “Groundhog Day.” There’s a new take on this classic trope in “Happy Death Day,” which premiered on Oct. 13. In this case, the story revolves around a young woman named Tree (Jessica Rothe), who is cursed into reliving the day she is murdered by a masked killerㅡwhich is, unfortunately, also her birthdayㅡuntil she can discover the killer’s identity and stop him.
My first problem with the film is that it follows an old storytelling formula that is very prominent in other movies. Other than “Groundhog Day,” there are others, including “Edge of Tomorrow,” which have utilized the same concept. Because of this, the plot of “Happy Death Day” ends up being somewhat predictable, and the movie as a whole suffers in terms of originality.
Many of the characters are set up as hyperbolized archetypes of common stock characters, such as the insufferably rude sorority sisters of the heroine, and Tree’s character growth comes across as expected and unsurprising. Now, the movie does compensate for this by being very tongue-in-cheek, which I appreciate. One character explicitly references “Groundhog Day,” and the movie includes scenes that pay homage to (and in some cases come straight out of) the films this one is inspired by.
Furthermore, instead of being a straight horror flick like I expected, the movie takes the route of being a dark comedy. There are jokes, humorous montages of Tree being repeatedly killed and an overall lighthearted tone. This does minimize the scare factor of the movieㅡwhich is already not particularly scaryㅡbut it gives the film its own identity and allows it to have fun playing with its formula.
The film also is made more enjoyable by the strong performances, particularly by Rothe, as well as Christopher Landon’s direction. He has a talent for blocking scenes and making the movie’s story flow naturally, which makes the film exciting and fun to watch even if the plot can get somewhat tired. Still, the lack of actual scares (in favor of an abundance of jump scares) and the familiar nature of the story does drag it down in many ways.
I never felt that the film was stirring any particular excitement in me, or that it was pushing any boundaries with its story or characters. The film ultimately is not as unique as some would like but it is still enjoyable, so if you like the type of story it tells and the tropes it plays upon, feel free to give it a watch. On its own, it’s a well-acted and well-edited, but sadly average, horror-comedy which does its job of pleasing the audience but doesn’t break any boundaries while doing so.
Movie: “Happy Death Day”
Director: Christopher Landon
Release: Oct. 13
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars