Death becomes her – repeatedly
Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine It’s a birthday to die for. IT may seem that all a horror movie needs in order to succeed is a masked maniac, a variety of victims and a good supply of fake blood. But a good gimmick goes a long way, too.
And Happy Death Day has a pretty solid one, even if it has already been made famous by the ’90s comedy Groundhog Day and repurposed to great effect by the underrated Tom Cruise action movie Edge of Tomorrow.
Yes, it’s the one about being trapped in the same day over and over again, with our hapless hero forced to keep reliving the events of the day until they figure out an escape route, which usually entails becoming a better person.
In Happy Death Day, however, there’s a bit of a ghoulish twist: the day college girl Tree (Jessica Rothe) keeps reliving is the day she dies at the hands of that masked maniac mentioned earlier.
Perhaps wisely, the movie downplays the gore and gruesomeness, maybe realising an unending cycle of death for its leading lady might be heavy going.
And it does give Tree a good range of responses to her predicament, ranging from plucky determination to laid-back indifference as time goes by, all of which are well-portrayed by the funny and likeable Rothe. (Of course, it also gives her the name Tree, for which there’s no explanation.)
Tree’s death day is also her birthday, and we first encounter her waking up next to Carter (Israel Broussard), a shy, sweet fellow student she met over a few too many drinks the night before.
Hungover and not exactly thrilled about it being her birthday, Tree goes through the motions of an ordinary day, one that shockingly ends with her death.
And then she wakes up next to Carter once more, with the entire process starting all over again.
Once the confusion and panic wear off, and her efforts to change the course of the day fail to work, Tree takes it on herself to solve her own murder.
But the way to do that might not involve changing what’s around her but what’s inside her.
As she says, “You live the same day over and over again, you kind of start seeing who you really are”.
To be honest, Happy Death Day doesn’t quite have the imagination or energy to keep its concept rolling for the movie’s duration, and it feels like it can’t quite decide if it wants to be a thriller, a chiller or a black-ish comedy.
But the novelty of the central idea is fun for a fair while, and it certainly helps that Rothe — perhaps best remembered as one of Emma Stone’s roommates from La La Land — has a zesty, vibrant comic presence. strangers must rely on each other to survive. (M, Village and Reading) Billie Piper (in an awardwinning performance) and Australian actor Brendan Cowell take the lead role in the National Theatre’s searing drama about a woman going to extremes to have a child. (Unrated, Pivotonian)
Tree (Jessica Rothe) takes it on herself to solve her own murder.
DEATH ON REPEAT: College girl Tree (Jessica Rothe) with Carter (Israel Broussard) in Happy Death Day.