Be happy that ‘Death Day’ ends
Another genre effort from the low-rent but very successful Blumhouse Productions company (“Insidious,” “The Purge”), “Happy Death Day” is a rather insipid mix of the classics, Harold Ramis’ “Groundhog Day” and John Carpenter’s “Halloween.”
The scrappy heroine of “Happy Death Day” is Teresa “Tree” Gelbman (a likable Jessica Rothe). Tree wakes up repeatedly in the fictional Bayfield University dorm room of the generically amiable Carter Davis (Israel Broussard, “Fear the Walking Dead”), who tells her they did not have sex and that she was completely wasted the night before.
The truth is: After experiencing the same day over and over with slight variations, Tree is repeatedly stalked and killed by the same knife-wielding lunatic in a baby-faced mask.
These repeated days, which just happen to be Tree’s birthday, as well as the birthday of her late mother, begin with a walk across the quad, an encounter with a stereotypical ecological activist type, a closeted gay would-be boyfriend named Tim (Caleb Spillyards), and a return to her sorority house, where she runs into her generically “mean girl” sorority sister Danielle (talented newcomer Rachel Matthews) and is reunited with her nursing student roommate Lori (Ruby Modine).
Tree is also having an affair with her teacher Gregory (Charles Aitken), who is also a doctor, married and British. Eventually, Tree becomes convinced that if she figures out a way to slay her slayer instead of vice versa, her life will go on normally.
The premise may not be original, but it’s workable enough and you only have to write a fraction of a real screenplay if you think about it, and much of “Happy Death Day,” which was obviously cut from a slasher-movie R to a more kiddie friendly PG-13, is played for laughs. Unfortunately, jokes about the length of Subway sandwiches fall flatter than a grilled-cheese panini.
If Tree is such a sweet young woman, why is her ring tone so loud and obnoxious? The whole movie comes to a stop to play Demi Lovato singing “Confident.”
“Happy Death Day” was directed by Christopher Landon (“Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse”) and scripted by Scott Lobdell (“Man of the House”). It’s not terrible, just not worth the time or money to see in a theater. If you’ve never seen “Groundhog Day” or “Halloween,” just add them to your watch list, instead.
(“Happy Death Day” contains violence, suggestive language, semi-nudity and profanity.)