Happy Death Day (6 out of 10)
"You relive the same day over and over again, you kind of start to see who you really are."
I've always enjoyed films about time travel or time loops, because it gives the protagonist a chance, in some way, to relive a certain day or moment, something that I've often thought and fantasized about. It's interesting to me, though, that of all the days I would want to relive or redo, it's usually the bad ones. Sure, there are plenty of great days I would love to relive and experience again, but really, it's those days or moments where, if given the chance, I would want to do things differently, in the hopes that the different decision would result in a better outcome. But, of course, with my very limited perspective, making a different decision that I think would have made things better may have, in fact, resulted in an even worse outcome. Ultimately, I have to learn to accept those decisions and learn from them, in the hopes that they'll make me a better person.
But in the thriller, Happy Death Day, Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) does get to experience the same day, over and over again, and it just so happens to be a very bad day for Tree, because at the end of it, she's murdered by a masked killer. Neither Tree nor the audience know why the time loop is happening, but it's clear that she needs to make some different decisions, because once she gets killed, she wakes up again in the same dorm room, on the same day (which also happens to be her birthday), only to get murdered again. It's an interesting premise, but unfortunately not very original. If you've seen the classic 1993 Bill Murray film "Groundhog Day," you've already seen a time loop movie done much better, albeit in the form of a comedy. However, that's not to say there aren't things to enjoy about Happy Death Day. There's plenty of needed humor in the film to lighten tone. There are several twists and turns that, despite not being very surprising, at least keep things from getting too stale. Also, while she starts off as extremely unlikable, Gelbman eventually learns to change her ways, as this film is more about her character's redemption than it is about solving a murder mystery.
The film does falter from too much of a "been there, done that" feel (apparently the filmmakers realized that, as there's a very direct reference to Groundhog Day made within the film). The acting, for the most part, is mediocre at best (although I found Rothe to be quite effective in a few scenes). There's also a mid-film montage sequence that I found to be a bit distracting and poorly done. Despite that, though, there's enough thrills, humor, and overall enjoyable moments in the film to give it a mild recommendation. While it may not be the most original time loop thriller, at least it didn't make me wish to relive the day so I could tell myself to stay home instead. I give Happy Death Day a 6 out of 10.
- Ryan Zeid