If you happened to watch Groundhog Day and thought “I wish this was a lame horror film”, then Happy Death Day is the movie for you.
This slasher-comedy stars Jessica Rothe as a college student called Tree. I’m not sure why she’s called Tree, but it does answer that old question about whether they make a sound when they fall in a forest or get stabbed in the face with a glass bong. You know the one.
Tree keeps waking up to discover she’s in Groundhog Day, Edge of Tomorrow, Source Code and Groundhog Day. That is, she’s living the same day over and over again, the twist being that it’s the day she is murdered. So she has to solve her own murder. It’s a nice idea but, like Tree, is wasted over and over again.
Conceptually, this is explicitly the same as Groundhog Day, but just shows how good that film was. Bill Murray wasn’t a nice man, but crucially he was funny. The only funny thing about Tree is her name. She’s mostly just unpleasant. I went home and immediately cancelled my Greenpeace membership.
As for the mystery element, you’ll guess the ending within about 10 minutes, then dismiss it for being too dumb, before remembering that you’re watching a film called Happy Death Day. It’s also not scary, but that goes without saying when it comes to Bumhouse; not so much a studio as a Netflix sub-genre.
Teenagers and Nestlé executives might enjoy watching Tree being repeatedly felled, and Jessica Rothe makes one mean Scream Queen. But this is no Scream Queens, whose cancellation seems all the more unfair when shit like this gets made, and the script needs to be tree hundred times sharper and meaner.
Happy Death Day is somehow more violent and more soppy than Groundhog Day, with none of Harold Ramis’ subversive wit, and never challenging anything other than our patience. You need internal coherence and rounded characters for the Groundhog Day life lesson to work, otherwise it’s just cynical and tacky.
When Tree finally starts being nice, which in the film mostly involves looking nicer and becoming monogamous, pretty conservative stuff, she’s somehow even more insufferable than before. That’s when I realised I wasn’t watching Groundhog Day at all, but a far worse Bill Murray movie: Scrooged.