There have been a plethora of stories within multiple genres that fit into the sub-genre of time-loop paranoia. I still remember the iconic Bill Murray escapade of “Groundhog Day,” the criminally underrated “Edge of Tomorrow” and even the obscure 2007 Nickelodeon movie “The Last Day of Summer.” “Happy Death Day” is the slasher-horror film that does an adequate job.
The film, directed by Christopher B. Landon, stars Jessica Rothe as Tree Gelbman, a snobby sorority sister who continuously gets murdered on her birthday and has to search for who her killer is. The movie has a gimmicky, cynical and irresistible plot. The repetition manages to avoid becoming too monotonous with a solid variety of ways in which the main protagonist is murdered.
But I wouldn’t particularly recommend going to see “Happy Death Day” with the expectation to be scared. Sure, it has one or two moments that will instill some fear in you — especially due to the disturbing face of the school’s mascot that the killer uses as a mask — but it’s still predictable. It’s rated PG-13, after all. What surprised me was how often the film didn’t feel like a horror experience. Ironically enough, it has moments of humor, heart and an appreciable underbelly of cute life lessons sprinkled throughout it. It’s not at the “Atlanta” level of social commentary and creativity, but it’s still an admirable attempt.
All of that being said, the most notable aspect of the film is the sensational performance given by Rothe. She’s remarkably endearing throughout the film’s entirety. Her charisma practically carries every scene that otherwise would’ve been dull and manages to turn a couple of scenes into full-fledged emotional pageants. Without her, “Happy Death Day” might’ve suffered immensely since most of the other characters were woefully unmemorable. It’s the kind of breakout performance that makes me genuinely hope for her to be in more films in the future. I’m sure many others will share that same sentiment, too.
“Happy Death Day” may not be the best project to come out of Blumhouse Productions — which has plenty of prodigious titles like “Paranormal Activity,” “The Purge” and “Get Out” under its belt — but it’s an entertaining film, even if it can be a bit absurd at times. It’s a fun, quirky film that feels more like a coming-of-age comedy than it does a terror-inducing thriller, but perhaps that’s what makes “Happy Death Day” such a heartfelt and enjoyable ride.