Much as a few ants can quickly procreate and transform into an entire colony, so too can a singular film plot eventually be copied and turned into a subgenre all its own. In this case, it’s the idiosyncratic Bill Murray classic Groundhog Day, which is rapidly finding its high-concept plot of repeating the same day over and over transformed into a premise shared by enough films to sustain its own category on Netflix. Just a few short months ago, it was the angsty YA version of the story in Before I Fall. Now, we get the horror variant on this tale.
Happy Death Day follows college student named Tree, who is forced to relive every day of her life with hippie parents who saddled her with that name. No, actually it traces her steps from the moment she wakes up in a dorm room on her birthday and does the walk of shame home, to the exact moment a masked killer breaks into her room and kills her. Cut to: Tree waking up in that same dorm, as her extremely odd choice of ringtone for when her father calls—50 Cent’s “In Da Club”—is again going off. With the implication that she’s also reliving 2003, she’s embarking on a mission to figure out who wants her dead and why, in hopes of breaking the cycle.
Hopefully, Happy Death Day will also break the cycle of lackluster versions of this narrative, and deliver an inventive twist on the material. Writer-director Christopher Landon penned most of the Paranormal Activity films, but his only other feature directing credit outside of that franchise’s The Marked Ones is the execrable Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse. Presumably, he’s also hoping to break the cycle of his previous film’s reviews. Happy Death Day comes out Friday, October 13, a release date every fall horror movie desperately wants. Wants badly enough…to kill?!? No, not that badly. But still.