“Happy Death Day,” the story of a woman caught in an endless loop of her own death, takes familiar elements from the horror genre and delivers the scares with wit, wisdom and wonder.
Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe), a sorority sister in desperate need of sensitivity training, wakes up in a strange college dorm room. Her meeting with the dorm’s occupant, the sweet Carter Davis (Israel Broussard), is the start of a string of humiliating moments magnified by it being Tree’s birthday. Her suffering comes to an end when a masked man attacks and kills her.
Tree wakes the next morning (that’s really the same morning) with a major sense of déjà vu and a murderous end to her day. It only takes Tree three or four times of being killed before she realizes that until she figures out the identity of her killer, the day will continue to repeat. But each time Tree awakens, she’s a bit weaker.
The suspect list is massively long because of Tree’s lack of caring for anyone but herself.
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Rothe is believable as the snotty sorority sister, the scared and confused murder victim, and the strong woman who not only finds clues about her killer with each death but learns a lot about herself. It’s a demanding task because Rothe is in every scene, but she steps up no matter if it means dying or trying.
Director Christopher Landon has created a film that has scary moments but is not burdened by the endless slaughter that so many horror film makers mistakenly use. The filmmaker also never gives into the kind of gratuitous sex that is always a signal in a standard horror film that someone — or a couple — is about to die.
If all you want out of a horror film is blood and guts, “Happy Death Day” isn’t the right movie for you. Anyone looking to enjoy some scares while trying to figure out a clever mystery should plan on seeing “Happy Death Day” … should plan on seeing “Happy Death Day” … should plan on seeing “Happy Death Day.”
‘Happy Death Day’
Rated PG-13 for violence, sexual content, language, partial nudity. 1:33. AMC Classic, Fayette, Georgetown, Hamburg, Nicholasville, Richmond, Winchester.