One of the more rehashed film tropes that has been in play in recent years it that of the protagonist reliving the same day repeatedly. The classic Bill Murray film, Groundhog Day was the originator (the short film 12:01pm notwithstanding) of the time-loop storyline and remains the gold standard. Most are pale comparisons, in each, the individual stuck in the loop has to go through the same steps – realize they’re in a loop, convince someone else of their predicament, and then sort out what they have to do to get themselves out of it. Happy Death Day, written by the Red Hood And The Outlaws comic book writer Scott Lobdell and directed by Paranormal Activity helmer, Christopher Landon, is another of the time-loop series, but the hook this time is that at the end of each day our heroine, Tree Gelbman (played by La La Land’s Jessica Rothe), is killed by a baby-mask wearing assailant.
So it belongs with the mystery thriller school of having to find out who did it, but the one investigating is the one who is being murdered each night. It’s an interesting twist on tale, and it’s additionally off the more traditional path by being almost a black comedy. Tree finds her situation ironically funny as often as not and make perverse jokes as she begins to work down her list of suspects.
It’s not overly gory, and the horror level isn’t over the top – there’s a few jump scares along the way, but nothing is particularly unexpected (composer Bear McCreary’s score is solid as always, but in the editing it tends to give the hint of what’s going to happen a few beats before it appears on-screen).
Another change to the normal narrative is that it seems that Tree is showing signs of physical trauma (when she goes in to the hospital after what seems to be a dozen days stuck in the loop, an x-ray shows healing from internal damage that the doctors say “she should be dead”). So there seems to be some physical impact on her every time through the loop, and she speaks of feeling progressively weaker. How the physical scars really jives with the idea that she’s restarting the same day over (if she was keeping some of the damage, it would be the world that is looping, and not her). However if the emotional and mental impact of being killed again and again (she feels it after all), was further explored it might have taken it in even more novel directions.
With at least five similarly-themed time loop films in 2017, so far Death Day is the best of the lot. It doesn’t make it great, but for the Halloween season, it’s a solid few hours of entertainment that you’re not likely to regret spending if you’re a fan of light-hearted horror. Fans of Scream Queens, this should appeal directly towards your tastes.
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