'Groundhog Day' + murder = fun 'Happy Death Day'

Friday, 13 October 2017, 08:27:12 PM. Jessica Rothe stars as a college student who must relive the day of her murder over and over.

Once you get past the premise — and granted, that takes some doing — "Happy Death Day" turns out to be goofy good fun.

That may sound like a strange way to describe a horror movie, but it's so self-aware of its influences and trappings that it's sort of a meta-step beyond the genre. That makes it sound more intellectual than it is, which is practically not at all. Mostly it's a movie in which the protagonist is trying to figure out a mystery crucial to her survival as she figures herself out along the way.

groundhog-day-murder-fun-happy-death-day photo 1

Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) wakes up in the dorm room of a stranger, Carter (Israel Broussard), only she doesn't remember his name. She wound up there hungover, angry, a little ashamed. As she stomps her way back to the sorority house where she lives, we learn that she is selfish, shallow and trying to hide the fact that it's her birthday.

groundhog-day-murder-fun-happy-death-day photo 2

Can Carter (Israel Broussard) help Tree (Jessica Rothe) solve her murder in "Happy Death Day?" (Photo: Universal Pictures)

Then, on her way to a party that night, someone wearing a baby mask (it's got to do with the school mascot) stabs Tree to death — and she wakes up the next morning in Carter's room, the same conversations swirling around her, the same sounds, the same everything. She must relieve the day — and be murdered — again and again. The details of her death change depending on her actions, but she always winds up dead before waking in Carter's room. Only if she can figure out who is killing her and prevent it can she break the cycle.

RELATED: 31 days of horror: Goody's countdown of the scariest flicks ever

Yes, you're right. That does sound like "Groundhog Day." That sounds almost exactly like "Groundhog Day." It sounds so much like "Groundhog Day" the characters are aware of it, something that's handled in a funny way.

In truth, the movie is more like "Groundhog Day" crossed with "Scream" with a "Sixteen Candles" chaser (one scene quotes visually from the latter film directly). It is inventive mostly in its own derivative way.

groundhog-day-murder-fun-happy-death-day photo 3

Tree (Jessica Rothe) hears something behind her in "Happy Death Day." (Photo: Universal Pictures)

And seemingly proud of it. Director Christopher Landon and screenwriter Scott Lobdell have fun dropping hints and clues along the way. Even things that happen the same way every day change a little — a warning that all the single boys will be taken becomes all the Sigma boys will be taken. Does it mean anything? Not really, but it makes you pay attention.

Landon brings a sometimes-stylish touch to the movie, and never takes the whole thing too seriously. Tree, we learn over time, has a reason to hate her birthday. She's also not very nice, though her sorority sisters are so egotistical and moronic she comes off a little better than perhaps the filmmakers meant for her to.

groundhog-day-murder-fun-happy-death-day photo 4

Tree (Jessica Rothe) tries to protect herself in "Happy Death Day." (Photo: Universal Pictures)

As with "Groundhog Day" or "Before I Fall" or "Edge of Tomorrow" or whatever other instant-resurrection movie you care to name, the cosmic exercise is meant to make the protagonist a better person. It's increasingly fun to watch Rothe work as Tree begins to figure out what's going on and thus cares less about maintaining her snotty sorority-girl image.

"Happy Death Day" isn't a new take on an old idea. It's the same take on the same idea, only with stabbing and hanging and bludgeoning and other violent deaths. That turns out to be a lot more enjoyable than you'd think.

Reach Goodykoontz at bill.goodykoontz@arizonarepublic.com. Facebook: facebook.com/GoodyOnFilm. Twitter: @goodyk.

MORE AZCENTRAL ON SOCIAL: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

 

'Happy Death Day,' 3.5 stars

Director: Christopher Landon.

Cast: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine.

Rating: PG-13 for violence/terror, crude sexual content, language, some drug material and partial nudity.

Great ★★★★★ Good ★★★★

Fair ★★★ Bad ★★ Bomb ★

RELATED:

'Loving Vincent' brings van Gogh's paintings to life

‘Goodbye Christopher Robin’ will change how you see Winnie-the-Pooh

S&M, bondage, free love and 'Professor Marston and the Wonder Women'

'The Florida Project' has more magic than Disney World

Origin story of an icon in 'Marshall'

 

 

Read or Share this story: http://azc.cc/2kHVSbo

Share this
Article 'Groundhog Day' + murder = fun 'Happy Death Day' compiled by www.azcentral.com