MOVIE REVIEW: “Happy Death Day”

Universal Pictures - Youtube

Jonathan Montague, Contributing Writer

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“Happy Death Day” is the not the horror movie we thought it was going to be…and that might just be the thing that makes it so good, putting a spin on two classic tales and keeping it fresh.

The film follows student and all-around mean girl Tree, played by Jessica Rothe, as she wakes up on her birthday after a night of drunk debauchery. That night while on her way to another party, she is stalked and killed by someone in a school mask. What seems like the end turns out to be the beginning since as soon as she dies, she wakes upright back where she started as the day repeats. At first shaken, she resolves to find her killer and return the favor — otherwise she may never see tomorrow.

“‘Groundhog Day'” mixed with “‘Scream'” descriptions will undoubtedly follow this film, but “Happy Death Day,” with incredible self-awareness, makes no attempt to pretend that those comparisons do not exist. The movie has a great sense of humor about its premise and turns from a full-on slasher flick to a comedic thriller.

This is the kind of film that rises or falls off the back of its main character and the actress portraying her; luckily for the film and its audience, Jessica Rothe turns in the performance that might help her break out as a new star. She has seemingly has no trouble playing the many different facets of Tree from her more unsavory aspects to her moments of comedy to genuinely heartfelt scenes. I hope that I see her in more films because she has proven to be very versatile.

The writing is probably this film’s second greatest strength. Tree as a character is written to be more than just your typical horror heroine. At the start of the film, she has some truly unlikable qualities. Yet, over the course of the film, she develops and is shown to be clever and compassionate, allowing you to genuinely be on her side. The plot keeps you guessing as to how she will find her killer and who the killer is, eventually coming to a very clever and somewhat humorous conclusion.

Overall, “Happy Death Day” treads familiar territory, but does so with a tongue-in-cheek approach that delivers some genuine comedy as well as despair and a main heroine that forces you to care — definitely worth living through a couple times.