You already killed me once.
Well, I guess I’ll just have to do it again.
Happy Death Day has a great premise; a sorority girl finds herself reliving a special day over and over again, ala Groundhog Day – it’s both her birthday and the day she is brutally murdered by a killer in a baby mask. I’m a sucker for a nice time-loop movie and this one is better than most. The script is smart, sarcastic and sincere all at once. It’s packed with a lot of great comedy, but, in what is kind of the biggest twist of all, this horror movie ends up pushing a kind of positive message of living life to the fullest & embracing your best self. The movie basically rises and falls on the lead performance and Jessica Rothe is absolutely brilliant. She has a real range of characterizations here and she nails them all. When the movie starts, she’s a bitchy sorority girl and unapologetically a really bad person. As the film progresses, Rothe has to make us start to care about this annoying character and she does. Rothe just goes for it. Sometimes, the comedy is incredibly broad; a bit that has her peeping through a window to spy on an ex-boyfriend is comedic acting that would not have been out of place in the silent era and its gutbustingly funny. But as the repeated violent deaths start to wear on her, we have to see her vulnerability and also buy the fact that this selfish, entitled girl has started to actually consider life and what’s really valuable about it. Even later, we’ve got to buy her turn into a determined badass. Rothe somehow pulls this off to perfection. She’s funny, sexy, charming, infuriating and more. And a brief word for Rachel Matthews who gives a really finely tuned performance as the head sorority girl; she’s so precise I almost can’t believe it’s her film debut. The film apparently had some different, darker directions in earlier versions, but I think the movie as it is lands it really perfectly. It manages to have its chills & thrills, some great laughs and then it sends you on your way with a smile on your face and a peppy little reminder that you really can be the kind of person you want to be. Happy Death Day ends up being a deliriously entertaining genre mix-up of the best kind. It’s short and fast-paced, smart & compelling. It’s a pure pleasure as only the movies can give us and it’s about the best time I’ve had at the movies this whole year. Happy Death Day is a marvelous mash-up and it hits every note perfectly; and if Jessica Rothe isn’t a star now, I don’t know what a girl has to do to be one these days. 4 stars.
tl;dr – Groundhog Day meets sorority slasher with hilarious, creepy & surprisingly emotional results; a brilliant Jessica Rothe elevates this utterly charming, consistently surprising movie. 4 stars.