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Happy Death Day (PG-13)
Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

10/19/17
By Amy Diaz adiaz@hippopress.com



Happy Death Day (PG-13)

A sorority sister lives the last day of her life over and over in Happy Death Day, a surprisingly fun, frequently funny horror movie.
After a night of partying, Tree (Jessica Rothe) wakes up in the dorm room of Carter (Israel Broussard), a guy she seems “meh” toward. She ignores a birthday call from her dad and returns to her sorority house, exchanging snippiness with the sorority head and with her roommate, Lori (Ruby Modine), before going to a class taught by Gregory (Charles Aitken), a professor with whom she is having an affair. She moves through her day, continuing to ignore her dad, and prepares for a party that evening. She walks to the party alone and, on the way, has a run-in with a hoodie-and-baby-mask-wearing creep who murders her.
Then, she wakes up. 
Again, she is in Carter’s room. Again, she ignores her father’s calls. Again she is uninterested in her roommate’s birthday wishes. Again with Gregory the sleazy professor, again with the party dress, again with a hoodie-and-baby-mask creep, again with the murder.
And then she wakes up again. 
As the days  — or at least that one day — unfold over and over, some things stay the same (the events she witnesses as she leaves Carter’s room) and some things are different (once, she tries boarding herself in her room) but every day ends with her death. And everyone other than Tree isn’t aware of this daily reset. At one point, she talks to Carter about her situation. He doesn’t entirely believe her but he suggests using her “lives” to run through a list of suspects (it is a long list). She crosses off the dictatorial sorority leader and a stalk-y boy she dated once but soon all the dying starts to take a physical toll. 
This movie has fun with its concept. The first few runs of Tree’s birthday day giddily pile up the suspects, with the movie dropping hints and red herrings and then gleefully discounting them or moving them up on the list.
Also fun: Happy Death Day doesn’t appear to hate its female lead or women in general. It is refreshing to watch a horror movie (or, heck, any movie, a-hem, Blade Runner 2049 and It, to pick two movies off the current box office top 10) that doesn’t seem to take particular delight in the suffering of its female characters or treat them as disposable. Sure, Tree suffers, but the movie doesn’t lasciviously wallow in her murders and it puts us in the audience in the pit with her as she, from the beginning, tries to take control of the situation. And I feel like at the edges it says interesting things about predatory male authority figures, frat-bro attitudes toward women, sexual agency and grief. And it has a sense of humor. 
Despite the premise and the masked murderer, I feel like Happy Death Day is more action-comedy than horror. It has a lighter, bouncier energy and had me rooting for Tree more as I would an action figure than as a horror heroine just reacting to scares. Though it’s an obvious comparison: if you liked Edge of Tomorrow, this is very much in that vein, not just in the Groundhog Day-like reliving of one day followed by a reset but in how the character stuck in the loop seeks to use it to accomplish a goal.  
Rothe’s Tree is a wonderfully imperfect heroine, the right mix of superficially shallow but actually smart and layered. There’s a very “early Buffy” quality to Tree, as in the Buffy of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie and first two-ish seasons of the TV show. Rothe makes the blend of action, comedy and a well-played, drama-y subplot work together in a way that makes the character believable as a regular person with regular person responses to her strange situation. B+
Rated PG-13 for violence/terror, crude sexual content, language, some drug material and partial nudity. Directed by Christopher Landon with a screenplay by Scott Lobdell, Happy Death Day is an hour and 36 minutes long and distributed by Universal Pictures. 





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