Happy Death Day Review: A Time-Loop Definitely Worth Watching Again (And Again)
Is it possible for a movie to be completely derivative and still wholly original? As contradictory as it may seem, this observer would argue yes. In a world full of sequels, spin-offs, and remakes, it seems like we’re completely out of new ideas. The key to originality these days may lie in genre-bending. Taking a used idea and putting it in a new setting to see what happens. The best example of such a feat would be “Happy Death Day”.
It’s impossible (even for the characters in the movie) to ignore the fact that the movie took the key device of “Groundhog Day” (1993), which is that the main character keeps living the same day over and over on a loop.
Tree (Jessica Rothe), however, doesn’t keep reliving the obscure holiday. She, instead, keeps reliving her birthday, which inevitably ends in her gruesome murder. At the end of every night, no matter what changes Tree makes to her plans, she is murdered by a baby-masked killer. Determined to solve her murder, stop her killer, and pull herself out of her loop, Tree uses her extra lives to meticulously piece together the clues of the crime.
The genre-bend here goes beyond using a comedic-device for horror. The real bend is that if I had to label it under its primary genre, it wouldn’t be horror at all. It would be murder-mystery. While there are a handful of good jump scares, and more than a fair share of tense, hair-raising moments, the plot focuses on the mystery of whodunnit more so than the act of the murder itself. Furthermore, they do it SO WELL. I pride myself on being able to solve a movie mystery with ease (comes with nitpicking inconsistencies), but I wasn’t even close.
Part of the reason it was such a hard film to predict was because the main character was a total bitch, and that was an absolute stroke of genius. The first thing that strikes the viewer about the main character, Tree, is “man, I hope she gets murdered a bunch of times”. Alienating the audience from the main character seemed like a huge flaw to me at first until I realized what they did. It both widened the suspect pool to just about anyone she ever met, and left a lot of room for character growth. The writer (Scott Lobdell [creator of the original X-Men cartoon of all people]), took full advantage of both of those. He left the audience pointing accusing fingers at the entire cast, keeping one step ahead of them the whole time, while he let the character complete a full and satisfying arc.
One area that was just a little lax was the consistency of details. While this is a flaw in just about every movie, it is more obvious in a movie where you see the same scene a couple dozen times. Nothing hugely obvious or glaring, but a few little things didn’t quite compute (like why would you keep notes to help you figure out your murder if they disappear at the end of the day anyways?). Other than that, “Happy Death Day” is an excellent sleeper hit that is worth putting on a loop and enjoying over and over.