By Mark Saldana
Rating: 2.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
After Groundhog Day, Edge of Tomorrow and Before I Fall, does cinema really need another movie where the protagonist repeats the day over and over until he or she does it correctly? Is cinema falling into a self-prophetic vicious cycle of repeated plots? I would have to answer no to the first question and perhaps to the second one. To be completely honest, I have already grown tired of this type of plot and it was very hard not to feel this way going into this film. I feel that Groundhog Day did it best and that Edge of Tomorrow did it in a fun and thrilling way, but that any others that would follow would have to really do something absolutely brilliant to even bother taking on this kind of story.
Well, that really isn’t the case with Happy Death Day. Though the filmmakers have taken this plot and placed it within the context of a horror-slasher meets murder mystery movie, they just don’t really bring anything new or exciting with it. It doesn’t really help that the story gets pretty darn ridiculous with some silly twists and a frustrating over-the-top climax. Happy Death Day does offer some thrills and laughs, but ends up tirelessly retreading the same familiar territories.
Jessica Rothe stars as Tree Gelbman, a self-involved sorority girl forced to live her birthday over and over again. This particular birthday is different, though. This birthday also happens to be the day of her death. The first time around, Tree spends her day in typical fashion–recovering from a hangover, barely making it through class, attending to sorority duties, and some other drama associated with being a socially active college student. After Tree gets attacked and murdered by a masked killer, she surprisingly wakes up starting the same day again. Though she cannot make any sense out of the strange phenomenon she experiences, Tree sees it as an opportunity to reveal the identity of her killer and prevent it from occurring.
Written by Scott Lobdell and directed by Christopher Landell (Disturbia, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse) Happy Death Day pretty much delivers on what it promises and not much else. The movie starts off fine and has its moments throughout. The scares are pretty weak, but the action and thrills work well enough. The humor works best in the movie and offers a good amount of intended laughs. However, the unintentional laughs come at the end with a silly reveal, and a climax that reeks of soap opera melodrama. I sat in my seat initially stunned by how ludicrously everything plays out and had to contain the laughs that wanted to burst from within me. Throw in some obvious red herrings and some plot holes and that pretty much sums up everything wrong with the movie.
On the positive end of the spectrum, the movie can boast some great performances by the two lead actors Jessica Rothe and Israel Broussard. Broussard stars as Carter Davis, a seemingly good-hearted acquaintance of Tree who ends up helping her multiple times during several repetitions of her day. Broussard delivers a performance full of boyish charm and shares a proper chemistry with Rothe throughout the film. Jessica Rothe performs admirably as the protagonist Tree Gelbman. Despite the silliness of some of the writing, Rothe puts her heart into the role and shows a wonderful range of talents as her character shows a variety emotions on what is supposed to be an insane day on repeat. The movie also features adequate performances by Ruby Modine, Rachel Matthews, Charles Aitken, Jason Bayle, and Rob Mello.
So despite the humor and charming performances by the leads, I cannot recommend this movie for theatrical viewing. It could possibly make for an entertaining night at home if one can overlook the numerous shortcomings and can get past the fact that this is yet another movie with a similar plot to Groundhog Day. I truly wish that producers and filmmakers would stop trying to milk this story idea because it has grown rather tiresome. Unlike the protagonists in the stories that use this device, the filmmakers behind Groundhog Day got it right the first time.