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Movie Review: “Happy Death Day” Delivers Laughs and Scares

“Groundhog Day” meets “Scream” in this surprisingly funny, mystery thriller.

Sorority girl, Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) wakes up hungover on her birthday in a stranger’s (Isreal Broussard) bed. She discovers she stayed the night with nerdy classmate, Carter, and rudely exits his dorm room. Thus begins her rampage of being a narcissistic mean girl to everyone who crosses her path. As we get a peek into a day in the life of Tree, we learn she ignores her father’s call, she’s sleeping with her married professor, and constantly belittles others. I know, hard to believe someone wants to kill her. As the night draws near, Tree heads to a party and is quickly stabbed to death by someone in a disturbing baby mask–oddly enough, that is the school’s mascot.  She then wakes up, and is forced to keep reliving her birthday with each day ending in her being murdered in some gruesome way. As Tree grows weaker with each consecutive loop, she must unmask her murderer and stop them from finishing her off for good.

Writer Scott Lobell does a great job with this clever script, as he adds a lot of humor and makes the film self-aware to the fact that this is a cheesy horror. The self-awareness allows for the movie to go beyond cliché lines and really have fun with a decently, thought out mystery. At this point I’ve described more of a comedy, but director Christopher Landon achieves a handful of scares that will have audiences jumping in their chairs.

The film’s story is solid, but the key ingredient here is the engaging breakout performance by Jessica Rothe. She nails the strong bitchy exterior that actually allows us to not feel guilty when we laugh at her numerous deaths, yet still gains sympathy towards her hopeful victory. Rachel Matthews, who plays an even more awful sorority sister, might provide the most laugh out moments with her over the top bitchy lines.

Whatever “Happy Death Day” lacks in the horror, it makes up for it in its entertainment. Reminiscent of the “Scream” era, it provides the same kind of “whodunit” feel that keeps you guessing till the very end.

I can’t say that this film should be at the top of your must-see list, but if you are looking for a few scares and fun time during this Halloween season, then “Happy Death Day” is the perfect choice.

Rating: 3.75/5

“Happy Death Day” opens in theaters October 13.

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