It’s “Groundhog Day” meets “Scream” as a college student (Jessica Rothe) relives her murder in this raucous, energetic horror romp. Rating: 3 stars out of 4.
Imagine “Groundhog Day” projected through a teen-slasher lens, and you know what to expect from “Happy Death Day.”
Director Christopher Landon and writer Scott Lobdell deliver precisely what the conceit promises, but so much more. The finished product is campy, clever, thrilling and, most important, a delirious amount of horror fun that kicks off with the opening Universal logo and never slows down.
Movie Review ★★★
‘Happy Death Day,’ with Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine, Rachel Matthews, Charles Aitken. Directed by Christopher Landon, from a screenplay by Scott Lobdell. 96 minutes. Rated PG-13 for violence/terror, crude sexual content, language, some drug material, and partial nudity. Several theaters.
Tree (Jessica Rothe) is a vicious mean girl at a university whose mascot is inexplicably a creepy baby. She wakes up on her birthday with a raging hangover, goes about the mundane business of her day, then dies at the hands of a masked killer, only to wake up and live it all over again. And again. And again. Each time edging closer and closer to solving her own murder.
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It would have been easy for the filmmakers to throw up their hands, get lazy and churn out a generic hack-job horror film. But instead of leaning on the tricks of the genre, they tinker with familiar tropes, set up and subvert expectations, and inject “Happy Death Day” with a vibrant wit and goofy, ludicrous sensibility. From a riotous death montage to sneaky twists, it’s self-aware and knows exactly what it’s doing.
Best known as one of Emma Stone’s roommates in “La La Land,” Rothe takes over the screen and shows she’s not destined to be a background player for long. She sinks her teeth into the biting, caustic sorority monster. But she also gives Tree a legitimate arc and journey that’s subtly affecting and remarkably heartfelt. But don’t worry, she’s not above juvenile fart jokes.
Hilarious, raucous and smarter than it’s likely to get credit for, “Happy Death Day” is an absolute blast for both horror junkies and those just looking for a fun jolt on Friday the 13th.