Happy Death Day (2017) puts a new spin on the old saying ‘many happy returns!’
For my final #MonthOfSpooks review of the year, I went to see one of the few horror movies which have been released in cinemas for Halloween this year, meaning I started with 1931’s “Dracula” and finished with 2017’s “Happy Death Day”. I ended up watching this film an hour or so after watching the latest episode of “Star Trek: Discovery”, giving me a wicked case of déjà vu.
When self-centred ‘Tree’ Gelbma wakes up in a stranger’s dorm room after a drunken night, she thinks her day has gotten off to a bad start but after spending the day being dismissive and rude to her friends, it goes from bad to worse when she’s murdered by a baby-face masked killer. Only Tree doesn’t die, she simply wakes up once more in the dorm room. Doomed to repeat the same day over and over again, Tree decides that to escape, she needs to solve her own murder and stop it from happening.
Is there a studio which is willing to have as much fun with its studio ident as Universal? I don’t think there is. Playful logos are one of my very favourite little movie things. Most of the big ones have done it but Universal are the best at it, “Dark Universe” aside and so we’re treated to a repetitive loop of the Universal fanfare at the start of this fun, bubble-gum slasher movie that’s nigh on impossible not to describe as “Scream” meets “Groundhog Day”.
Although it has its moments of dread and tension, the movie’s not out to terrify or traumatize, it just wants to have a good time and give you a few chills while it does it. Jessica Rothe is an eminently likeable lead, convincing both as the selfish, IDGAF sorority girl and the tempered victim ready to atone for her past and take control of her future. She’s matched in the likability stakes by Israel Broussard as Carter, the nice guy whose dorm room repeatedly has a Tree in it. “Happy Death Day” has fun with its whacky – and ultimately unexplained – premise (although quite why someone who loathes the idea of birthdays would have a ringtone based on the 50 Cent song) and while it is derivative, it delivers the familiar tropes with enough energy and personality to make it feel, if not fresh, then certainly not stale.
The baby-faced killer is a suitably creepy creation and the kills are satisfyingly varied with enough red herrings along the way to keep things entertaining, although I don’t think I spent enough time mulling over the protagonist being named ‘Tree’ while I was watching it. It’s not ground-breaking or innovative but it’s undemandingly enjoyable and a great note to finish the #MonthOfSpooks on.