One of the best examples of a movie that has used the idea in the past is the iconic 1993 comedy Groundhog Day, where Bill Murray repeats the same day over and over again in a small town. It’s his personal version of hell.
A more recent example that was well executed was the 2014 sci-fi Edge of Tomorrow, that riffed on the senseless loss of life in war.
But for many people, Happy Death Day may be the first example of this type of film they have seen on screen, which could just be a bit disappointing.
Happy Death Day is by no means a terrible film. In fact, it’s fine. It’s just that it doesn’t seem as willing to break conventions as the other two, though it does its best to copy, especially Groundhog Day and it even references the film at one point.
The film is centred around “Tree” (perhaps because she has the charisma of one), a college student who wakes up in a dorm room with the guy she went home with, Carter.
She’s rude to him, leaves, is rude to more people on her way home, is rude even when she gets home, and is rude about 17 more times before finally getting killed that night.
This repeats itself a couple of times, before she realises that the masked killer must know her, that this isn’t a random killing, she surmises that she must know who is behind the mask.
So she and Carter devise a plan where she will spy on someone to see if they are the killer, cross them off her list, get killed, and then do the same thing again.
Never mind the fact that she could try and defeat the killer and unmask them.
No, they think creating a Scooby-Doo mystery is the best option.
What makes this move frustrating is that she actually manages to subdue the killer on occasion, but she always decides to run away, rather than finishing the job. I guess it’s because there is still time left in the movie and more death scenes need to happen.
As it is with the other two “live-die-repeat” movies, the main character needs to be unlikeable.
That way, as they progress through the day over and over again, they see that they were not good people and they make strides to correct that.
But with Groundhog Day and Edge of Tomorrow, no-one was trying to kill them for being a bad person.
Tree is a student and someone is trying to kill her, which begs the question – how bad a person must you be that someone would meticulously plan your death?
Not only that, but because she seems to be such an unlikeable person to everyone that she meets, there are just too many people with motive.
Which is sort of what the problem is with the movie. The characters all seem to be cardboard cutouts of how an adult thinks a young person would act.
They are all rude or self-absorbed, have bizarre diets and talk strange.
So when most of the characters are unlikeable or boring, why should you care what happens to them?
The movie markets itself as a horror flick, but it isn’t really scary, or not in ways that you haven’t seen 100 times before anyway.
It’s more of a mystery, and the “reveal” is quite disappointing.
However, I do have to give the movie credit for leading the audience one way that ends up being a great surprise.
Because it’s not especially violent, or scary, it’s probably aimed at an audience of people aged over 13. But it’s not the movie for you if you are tired of the same horror tropes.
One of the recurring characters seen when Tree leaves Carter’s room is a girl petitioning for climate change, to save the world.
One wonders if the world would be a better place if this particular Tree was cut down.