Happy Death Day (2017)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Happy Death Day</strong> (2017)

(On Cable TV, October 2018) Derivatives of Groundhog Day’s time-loop premise are now commonplace, and it takes a little bit more to avoid charges of being derivative. Happily, Happy Death Day eventually gets there: A comedic horror take on the reliving-a-day idea, it’s a film that eventually finds its groove and runs with it. It doesn’t start that promisingly, what with a college student waking up next to a one-night stand and going through a school day (that happens to be her birthday) before being brutally murdered … and starting over again. The expected scenes of time-loop movies are there, but there is a sharp edge to the horror element as our protagonist gets murdered time and time again. While the first half-hour of the film is a bit perfunctory, the film eventually improves, roughly at the same time as we gain an appreciation the lead actress. Jessica Rothe doesn’t have much name recognition, but this is going to change with her performance here, as she goes from an obnoxious sorority girl to a likable protagonist over the first half of the film and then keeps our interest for the remainder of the story. The “Confident” song montage is when the film finally comes into focus. A dark comic sense of humour from director Christopher Landon and writer Scott Lobdell certainly helps keep things interesting despite the film’s low-budget. Unhappily, the film eventually starts ignoring its own plot points (not much is made of the protagonist becoming weaker throughout the loops) but the ride is a fun one despite some third-act weirdness. I ended up liking Happy Death Day more than I thought at the beginning, and even more than I thought after twenty minutes of it. Even as a Groundhog Day derivative, it’s actually worth a look.

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