The totally obvious reference to Bill Murray’s “Groundhog Day” is not hard to miss, especially when it’s actually brought up in dialogue for the semi-comedic slasher flick, “Happy Death Day.” It’s like the cast of “Galaxy Quest” going, “Y’know, this whole thing is like a throwaway episode of ‘Star Trek.’” And then somebody would go, “‘What’s ‘Star Trek’?”
That’s kind of the self-conscious drivel that drives the plot for this movie about a young college woman with a ridiculous name, Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe), who wakes up hungover from a night of frat-party nonsense in the dorm room of a young man named Carter Davis (Israel Broussard), whom she barely knows. Tree then proceeds to go about her day very cranky, cynical and verbally poking everyone in the eye despite it being her birthday. Then, at the end of the day, she gets murdered by a weirdo in a baby-face mask.
Get it? “Happy DEATH Day”? You have to wonder who dropped the bong when somebody came up with that one.
Now comes the “Groundhog Day” grabber. No sooner does she get offed, when Tree suddenly wakes up again in Carter’s dorm room only to live her last day all over again. So, she goes about her day cranky, cynical, all mean and pokey — and then, boom, it happens again. And again. And again.
Of course, if you’re in the audience believing this movie is so good it beat “Blade Runner 2049” at the box office, you’ll feel the need to at least stick with it and follow Tree’s quandary as she tries to figure out what’s happening. Like Bill Murray, she makes note of the various repeating patterns and decides to change things up every so often just to see if it might somehow alter the terminal outcome of her day. But, no. At the end of each day, this creepy person in a baby-face mask comes at her with a big knife and, well, you know.
Eventually, Tree figures the only way out of this wacky time loop is to discover the identity of the killer.
While conducting this crazy murder investigation, she actually starts developing compassion for her fellow students, friends, strangers and even her family — because, it turns out, there are particular unresolved issues that might actually have something to do with her current situation.
As the movie’sprotagonist, 30-year-old Denver native Rothe has pretty good timing and comedic instincts, which we saw as one of Emma Stone’s friends in “La La Land.” And, it’s obvious she knows this is not a bad showcase for her talents because she’s on screen for pretty much every minute of the film’s zippy 96-minute running time. But, what can we say about a movie that’s essentially a hipster rip-off of a near-classic comedy movie featuring Bill Freakin’ Murray?
Oh, well. Maybe they’ll come up with a sequel. This time, don’t drop the bong.
Co-stars include a bevy of no-names who are probably pleased as punch to have this movie on their résumés.
“Happy Death Day” is rated PG-13 for violence/terror, crude sexual content, language, some drug material and partial nudity.
It is showing daily at Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 758-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.
Also showing in Taos
The following was compiled from press materials.
MPAA rating: R for strong and disturbing violent content, some sexuality, nudity and language
Movies at the TCA
The synopsis for this film only addresses the basics: A couple’s relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence.
But, since it is from filmmaker Darren Aronofsky (“Black Swan,” “Requiem for a Dream”), “mother!” is hardly simple.
It stars Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer in a riveting psychological thriller about love, devotion and sacrifice.
Some critics have been divided about this unusual film. “Aronofsky has made precisely the movie he set out to make. But it may very well not be a movie you want to see,” writes Christopher Orr in The Atlantic.
“For all the Rosemary’s Baby similarities, ‘mother!’ is not, in fact, an extended pregnancy metaphor. No, it’s something far more self-centered — an artist’s auto-critique,” writes David Edelstein in Vulture.
And, lastly, Variety’s Owen Gleiberman writes, “By all means, go to ‘mother!’ and enjoy its roller-coaster-of-weird exhibitionism. But be afraid, very afraid, only if you’re hoping to see a movie that’s as honestly disquieting as it is showy.”
This film will be screened at 2 p.m. Sunday (Oct. 22) and at 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday (Oct. 23-25).
Movies at the TCA film series, Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. For tickets and additional information, call the Taos Center for the Arts at (575) 758-2052 or visit tcataos.org.