Wholly resisting the urge to mention a certain 1993 Bill Murray comedy, Happy Death Day plays out more like the bastard love-child of the Tom Cruise sci-fi thriller ‘Live. Die. Repeat’ crossed with ‘Scream 2’, with a liberal dose of ‘D.O.A’ sprinkled on top (that’s the 1950’s thriller, not the turgid action thriller starring Holly Vallance, by the way).
As usual, none of the plot will be revealed here, but the title and the spoilerific trailer pretty much sum it all up. Featuring a break-out turn from the hitherto unknown Jennifer Rothe, her character (the improbably named Tree Glebman) is both sassy, funny and likeable, which is great news for the audience as she is in every almost single frame. In fact, all of the cast deliver solid enough turns, even as the checklist of gloriously clichéd caricatures pile up (Jocks, Goths, Tree-Huggers, Stoners, Dozy Cop, Sleazy Killer, Workaholic Room-Mate, The Plastics, Absent Father…you name it, they’re all here!) at a relentless pace and the direction remains lean, mean and brisk as the plot hurtles ever-forward.
Films structured in this way are very tricky to make well due to the attention to continuity required – plus the small feat of holding the audience’s attention despite the endless repetition on show – but director Christoper Landon has clearly watched Pete Travis’ superb thriller ‘Vantage Point’ a few times, as he manages the plot with aplomb: keeping things fresh, funny and interesting with each ‘loop’ as different eventualities are explored depending on the (often fatal) decisions Tree makes. This all helps to stave off audience fatigue and throws in a few surprises as the plot progresses too.
The disappointingly bloodless film presents all the usual red-herrings and usual suspects and whilst consistently funny, the film does fall into the inevitable trap of resorting to clichés and jump-scares throughout its brief running time.
The logic of the film most definitely goes out of the window towards the end of the film and the final reveal and the motives of the murderer are not nearly as satisfying or as convincing as audiences might have hoped.
The script could have done with perhaps one or two more more tweaks to make this thriller something truly memorable, but as it stands it is at least a solid, ambitious and entertaining 96 minutes that should be commended for being bold enough to try something fresh and original in an (admittedly) really predictable genre.
All in all, a pefectly decent and entertaining Friday Night thriller with an amusingly devious final scene.