Happy Death Day *** / *****
Directed by: Christopher Landon.
Written by: Scott Lobdell.
Starring: Jessica Rothe (Tree Gelbman), Israel Broussard (Carter Davis), Ruby Modine (Lori), Rachel Matthews (Danielle), Charles Aitken (Gregory), Jason Bayle (David), Phi Vu (Ryan Phan), Donna Duplantier (Nurse Deena), Rob Mello (Joseph Tombs), Cariella Smith (Becky).
Happy Death Day is a goofy horror movie riff on Groundhog Day – and the best thing about the movie is that it knows how goofy it is. This isn’t really a scary movie – there are a couple of moments that may make the uninitiated jump, but for the most part, you likely won’t be too scared by the movie. Instead, the movie just want to have a little fun with the genre, and for the most part succeeds. I wish the movie had pushed itself a little harder – a better ending could have upped this film from fun, forgettable time waster into something more than that – but its ambitions are not that high.
The film opens with university student Tree (Jessica Rothe), waking up in a strange dorm room, hungover, and not quite sure how she got there. The dorm room belongs to Carter (Israel Broussard) – and he isn’t the creep we first assume him to be (it’s a little sad how low we set the bar for not creep like behavior for men on university campuses, but apparently just not sleeping with a girl who is almost unconscious from drinking too much is where we’re at). She quickly gets her stuff together, and does the “walk of shame” back to her sorority, and then goes through the rest of the day – her birthday – dodging calls from her dad, and apparently interacting with every person she knows on campus. That night, on her way to a party – she is attacked and murdered by some knife wielding psycho wearing a baby mask – but just as she dies, she wakes up in Carter’s room, and does the whole thing over again. And again. And again. And again. No matter what she does, it always ends the same – with the knife wielding psycho in the baby mask killing her. She figures if she can figure out who the killer is, than she can stop them – but that is more complicated than it sounds.
Like Tree, you’ll spend most of the film trying to piece together who the killer is – although a montage part way through takes a lot of suspects out of the running too early for my tastes. The last act of the movie is more than a little bit of a mess – and goes on a lengthy misdirection that was raised so many questions in my head that it obviously had to be a misdirection, and so it’s more than a little farfetched than Tree – who had lived through the day dozens of times by now – would ever believe it.