There’s no shortage of things requiring a heaping amount of suspension of disbelief in Happy Death Day, the Groundhog Day-style horror-comedy (heavier on comedy, lighter on horror) from director Christopher Landon (Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse)—not the least of which is the fact that the fictional Bayside University where it’s set has a baby as its mascot, as in the Bayside Babies.
Eh, whatever, it gives the killer an excuse to wear a creepy baby mask, which, incidentally, was designed by the same guy who designed Scream’s iconic Ghostface mask. So there’s that.
Happy Death Day stars Jessica Rothe as Tree (oddly short for Theresa), a sorority sister who wakes up on her birthday in a strange guy’s dorm room and then proceeds to go about her bitchy ways until her murder that night, at which point she wakes up and goes through the entire day again. And again. And again…getting killed each time, and each time waking up in the same place. I lost track at around reboot number eight.
Naturally she begins to see the error of her obnoxious personality as she simultaneous tries to work out why this keeps happening to her and, more importantly, who keeps killing her. There’s certainly nothing ground-breaking here, and it’s also not impossible to work through the red herrings to figure out who the killer is, even before Tree does, but that doesn’t mean the movie doesn’t succeed as a fun little diversion.
Rothe, who is perhaps best known (if at all) as one of Emma Stone’s apartment mates in La La Land, carries the film with easy-breezy finesse. She’s a better comedic actress than a horror floozy, which is good since Happy Death Day is much more of a comedy (and a romantic one at that) than a slasher pic. Yes, there’s plenty of killing, but the blood is in short supply, and the deaths actually get funnier as the film progresses, including one hilarious set of scenes where Tree’s able to cross potential suspects off her list.
The script by comic book vet Scott Lobdell is just clever enough to stay entertaining, even going to so far as to (thankfully) reference Groundhog Day at one point. And it also provides us with perhaps the best (most misguided) definition of “deja vu” ever. We’re talking some fairly funny stuff here, even as Tree’s body count piles up along the way.
It’s doubtful that Happy Death Day will have even a bit of the staying power that the all-time meta-horror champ Scream enjoys, but it’s still a rock-solid, laugh-out-loud pseudo-horror flick that hits all the right buttons again and again and again.