Review: A college student, Tree (Jessica Rothe), woke up in a random guy’s (Israel Broussard) dorm room before she went on and did what all mean girls should do: screwing everyone she encountered. There’s no stopping for her sinister behavior until she finally got herself into trouble: being killed by a masked killer, only to find herself waking up to the same room she woke up earlier and relived her final day again, again and again.
In short, Happy Death Day does Groundhog Day with teen-slasher tropes. Director Christopher Landon and writer Scott Lobdell utilize time-loop formula to showcase their references of old-school slasher films in creating tension. But, more to it, they also utilize the same formula to formulate a fun whodunit thriller with the victim as the center. It looks campy and a little generic, but it never stops bringing funride for its whole duration.
The time-loop genesis has never been explained; but, the phenomenon sets its rules quite strictly and implicitly. The protagonist needs to unravel those constraints after some trials and errors, making it like a video game with the main goal to find the murderer. If not done properly, the premise might simply go mundane and lazy at worst; but Happy Death Day isn’t that kind of film. It really exploits its tropes not to fall into predictability, instead, it goes over and over with multiple scenarios, which in the end begins to shift our perception from ‘who the murderer is’ focus to ‘why is the protagonist killed.’ The film understands its potential and it knows what to do with that.
Jessica Rothe (known as the green-dressed roommate in La La Land’s Someone in the Crowd scene) plays a pivotal role in making Happy Death Day a boisterous game as she transforms from an alpha mean girl into a hapless victim before coming back as the final girl. Rothe delves into every emotion adeptly as if she’s really into some breakdown and burst of enthusiasm at the same time. She might be auditioning for one role, but practically she is in many horror-slasher flicks with multiple roles and characteristics in each reset; although, indeed, she’s perfectly blending in as a typical mean girl.
While time-loop trope has begun to feel overhyped recently, Happy Death Day instead exploits the unoriginal idea into a somewhat inspiring presentation. Although, the conclusion of all the going-back-and-forth isn’t necessarily satisfying, the journey to there has provided us with zillions of jolts and exhilarating bolts.
Happy Death Day (2017)