by Sherry Lipp
The Lowdown: Light, but fun horror meets time loop mashup.
Time loop stories are a classic staple of storytelling. One of the best known of course is the 1993 Bill Murray film Groundhog Day. It’s also been seen in television shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation, The X-Files, and Supernatural, in books, and other movies like Edge of Tomorrow and the ultimate time loop trip Looper. What is the appeal of this popular trope aside from pure entertainment?
I would say it’s because in real life we don’t get a do over, but nearly everyone probably fantasizes about it at some point or another. What if we had made a different decision? How did that small thing change our lives in some way? It’s fun, and sometimes maddening, to think about. Typically in these stories the protagonist has to make better decisions until they land on the right series of events that will break the loop and set them free. Like in Groundhog Day that usually involves becoming a better person.
In Happy Death Day shallow sorority girl, Tree (Jessica Rothe), must live the same hellish day over and over until she can solve her own murder. It’s not entirely unlike Before I Fall, which came out earlier this year, in which a shallow teen must relive the day she dies over and over. Aside from being about a murder, Happy Death Day has a lighter feel than that movie.
It’s Tree’s (short for Theresa) birthday, a fact she doesn’t really want to share with in anyone, despite her “Busy Day Birthday” ringtone, which pretty much alerts everyone that it’s her birthday. In the morning she wakes up in the dorm room of a coed she doesn’t know and in the evening she is murdered by a knife-wielding person in a black jogging suit and horrifying baby mask. Babies are the fictional college’s mascot – as strange as that may sound.
Tree wakes up the dorm room a second later and has to do it all over again, and again, and again. Unlike those other time loop movies, Tree needs to solve her murder in order to get out of the loop. Along the way she starts to discover her better self, but it’s not the crux of her problem, which begs the question, why is she stuck in the loop? It’s as much of a mystery as the identity of the murderer.
The film does a good job of keeping things entertaining. Tree changes her steps enough to give the audience some variety in her demise each night. There’s also clever little twist on the physical effects of reliving traumatic events over and over. The murders themselves aren’t all that scary after a while, because we always know it’s coming, but luckily Happy Death Day keeps it’s running time tight so it doesn’t end up dragging too much.
I didn’t see the twist coming at the end, but I was hoping for a little more revelation like maybe that the killer was experiencing the time loop too or something like that. I mean how could it be in the realm of possibility that he murderer would always know where Tree was and what she was doing? It’s also very light and doesn’t offer much depth, but maybe that shouldn’t really be expected in a film like this. It’s entertaining and does a good job of keeping the audience guessing until the end.
Happy Death Day Images: Universal Pictures