HAPPY DEATH DAY (Christopher Landon). 96 minutes. See listing. Opens Friday (October 13). Rating: NNN
We’re in a good place for self-aware horror these days. Two decades after Scream, it’s expected that the audience will be in on the joke of the slasher movie, and if the characters can figure out the rules and use them to their advantage, so much the better.
This brings us to Happy Death Day, a slasher variation on Groundhog Day that incorporates the lessons of Scream quite nicely.
Happy Death Day quickly lays out its premise: for reasons unknown, Louisiana college student Tree (Jessica Rothe, who was one of Emma Stone’s dancing roommates in La La Land) finds herself reliving her birthday – which is also the day of her murder – over and over again.
Every morning, she wakes up in the same dorm room with the same hangover no matter what she does over the course of the day, she meets up with her creepy killer every night. And the cycle seems set to continue infinitely until she can suss out who’s killing her, and why.
As PG-13 horror movies go, this one’s a pleasant surprise: Rothe is a blast as the perpetual final girl, finding surprising comic notes in Tree’s growing self-awareness and commitment to survival, while director Landon shows marked improvement since the forgettable Scouts’ Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse.
No, it’s not a masterpiece: the high points for this micro-genre are still Groundhog Day (obviously) and the Tom Cruise alien-war thriller Edge Of Tomorrow. But it’s fun and energetic, and god knows you could do worse for a Halloween distraction.