Happy Death Day, B-
Rated PG-13, 96 minutes
Some people would gladly relive the same day over and over again, but not if you die a gruesome death during said day. That the premise of the fun new horror comedy "Happy Death Day," which is essentially "Groundhog Day" combined with "Scream." Not exactly groundbreaking cinema, but it makes for a surprisingly entertaining and lighthearted time, and the best new horror film since "Get Out" way back in February, which was in an interesting twist of fate, produced by the same company, Blumhouse Productions, whose expertise is far more gruesome, serious stuff like "Insidious" and "The Purge."
Tree Gelbman ("La La Land's" Jessica Rothe) is a blissfully self-centered collegian who wakes up on her birthday in the bed of a student named Carter (Israel Broussard). As the morning goes on, Tree gets the eerie feeling that she's experienced the events of this day before. When a masked killer suddenly takes her life in a brutal attack, she once again magically wakes up in Carter's dorm room unharmed. Now, the frightened young woman must relive the same day over and over until she figures out who murdered her.
Heavy on laughs and light on blood, the enjoyable "Happy Death Day" takes a nice twist on the "Groundhog Day" theme, mixing it with some decent chills and a remarkably touching message given its horror-style premise. It's essentially a murder mystery, as if you had to relive your death each day. During the process, our heroine, who's not a very good person, must learn some important life lessons and grow up a little too.
"Happy Death Day" is directed by "Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones'" Christopher B. Landon and is written by comic book writer Scott Lobdell, while it's predictable and even oversentimental at times - and like many horror films it lacks smarts - placing its characters in some silly, silly situations in which they go and check out things that make a noise in the dark (I've found it's always best to run).
It helps that the film has a couple of appealing leads: Blake Lively-lookalike Rothe is a plucky heroine and charming "Good Kids" Broussard gives Colin Hanks a run for his money, and it while it may not always have its head in the game, it never quite takes itself seriously, which is refreshing for a genre that will provide a few sequels to make a buck.
"Happy Death Day" is a good time and a nice twist to the 1992 Bill Murray classic, which it references humorously in the final scene ("sorry I don't know who that is"). Worth a look for a few laughs and a jump or two.