Hollywood@Home: Happy Death Day

A college student relives the day of her murder over and over again in “Happy Death Day.”

Knowing “Happy Death Day” is a “Groundhog Day” retread before seeing it is a positive. You might even enjoy this slasher film more than I did. I found it to be annoyingly unoriginal and tedious. Where’s Bill Murray when you need him?

“Happy Death Day” is about a mean-spirited sorority sister, who’s forced to experience her own murder repeatedly until she learns how to become a better person. And, because the murderer always wears a mask, she’s also charged with learning the killer’s identity.

In “Groundhog Day,” Murray plays a burned-out TV weatherman forced to travel to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to cover the annual emergence of that weather-predicting rodent. His character, Phil Connors, is caught in a seemingly endless time loop. Connors eventually learns how to tone down his arrogance and re-arrange his priorities. By film’s end, he becomes a decent human being.

That’s more or less what happens to Theresa “Tree” Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) in “Happy Death Day.” Only she’s forced to continually relive her brutal murder. Every time she tries to change the events on her death day, she’s killed in a different way at a different place. Tree begins to realize that her personal time loop won’t end until she corrects those character flaws.

The reason “Groundhog Day” works so much better than “Happy Death Day” is that Murray’s talent was a given going in. We can handle his arrogance and sarcasm because we know he’s going to be funny. We cut him slack because of his earlier work on SNL and on films like “Caddyshack” “Ghostbusters” and “Stripes.” Murray was an immense talent long before “Groundhog Day” premiered in 1993. We have no such expectations for an unknown actress playing a bitchy, privileged college student.

Since “Happy Death Day” doesn’t even acknowledge it’s vastly superior parent film until the end, it all just seems like a cheap ripoff. That’s why, in my opinion, it’s best to know that it’s a virtual clone going in. I didn’t know when I started to watch and got quickly irritated by its lack of originality.

Production quality is decent for a slasher film. The killer does have a frightening mask and more than a few tense moments. The solution of the mystery is reasonably satisfying and there are a couple of minor twists in the final act that I enjoyed. The home entertainment release (Blu-ray, DVD, Digital) includes an alternate ending. It’s reportedly the film’s “original” ending, but didn’t test well with audiences. Grade: C

A sorority sister (Jessica Rothe) gets stuck in a time loop on the day she’s murdered in “Happy Death Day.”