Ground­hog Day gets hor­ror treat­ment

Toronto Sun - - SHOWBIZ - PAT PADUA Run­ning time: 1 hour, 36 mins.

Here’s a sim­ple — and po­ten­tially chilling — con­cept: What if some­one re­made Ground­hog Day, in which a TV weath­er­man re­lives the same day over and over, as a hor­ror movie?

Di­rec­tor Christo­pher Lan­don (Para­nor­mal Ac­tiv­ity: The Marked Ones) and writer Scott Lob­dell (of TV’s X-Men se­ries) have done just that, pay­ing fond homage to Harold Ramis’ 1993 com­edy classic with a tale of a col­lege stu­dent who must go through the day she’s mur­dered, again and again. Sadly,

proves that the clever no­tion is ill-suited to hor­ror.

Set at a fic­tional Louisiana univer­sity, the movie opens on Tree (Jes­sica Rothe of La La Land), a pop­u­lar soror­ity girl who wakes up on her birth­day to find that she has spent the night with — gasp

— an un­pop­u­lar boy, whose name she doesn’t even re­mem­ber (Is­rael Brous­sard).

From Tree’s smug, dis­mis­sive in­ter­ac­tions with fel­low stu­dents and for­mer bed­mates, it’s clear she isn’t a nice per­son. Later that evening, as stu­dents wan­der around cam­pus wear­ing masks fash­ioned af­ter the school’s grotesque in­fant mas­cot, a masked, hooded as­sailant stalks and kills Tree. Just at the mo­ment of death, she wakes up in the boy’s bed, liv­ing through the same day, un­til she is killed by the same at­tacker.

Slaugh­ter, rinse, re­peat. Like a char­ac­ter in an af­ter-school spe­cial, Tree comes to see this vi­cious cy­cle as an op­por­tu­nity to be­come a bet­ter per­son.

Un­for­tu­nately, while the movie’s cast is not un­ap­peal­ing, Tree’s jour­ney to self-knowl­edge feels abrupt and un­con­vinc­ing. What’s more, the cy­cle makes it im­pos­si­ble to build ten­sion. We al­ready know that Tree is go­ing to die. De­tails and meth­ods may change, but they aren’t par­tic­u­larly in­ven­tive.

With its cir­cu­lar arc of soulsearch­ing and re­demp­tion, Ground­hog Day has be­come a mod­ern cau­tion­ary tale — A Christ­mas Carol for con­tem­po­rary times that peo­ple watch, again and again.

By bor­row­ing that same premise, the mak­ers of Happy Death Day hope to cash on the ear­lier film’s en­dur­ing ap­peal.

But this is one movie that no one needs to re­live.

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