Happy Death Day (3 stars)

Happy Death Day

Fun, cliche-defying comedy horror from Christopher Landon, starring the versatile Jessica Rothe

Groundhog Day meets Scream in this surprisingly funny horror from Christopher Landon that revives late 90s and 00s slang, reminding us that life's a 'bi-atch'. The set-up is simple: student Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) is forced to relive the day of her grisly murder over and over again until she finds out who her killer is. The suspects are lined up neatly as she makes her way back to her sorority house after passing out drunk in the dorm room of fellow student Carter (Israel Broussard).

At first, everything Tree tries to do to dodge her death fails. She avoids walking down a secluded pathway littered with danger signs, and even barricades herself in her room. Refreshingly, the film largely shifts the blame away from her behaviour, despite her bad attitude. Landon also eschews repetitiveness by making every murder differ and creating a genuinely tense atmosphere in places.

A comical montage sequence combines Tree spying on a male stalker, experimenting with her hair colour and confidently streaking across campus. Her romantic relationship with Carter is sweet, and amusingly sees her farting her way through dinner because he's never going to remember it. Rothe's versatile performance is key to the success of the film, as she deftly switches between scared shitless, exasperated, composed and mischievous. Broussard, too, brings the charm, playing the good guy and love interest, with his resemblance to The OC's Seth Cohen (Adam Brody) surely no coincidence.

A final trashy twist of the knife sadly robs the film of some of its defiant buoyancy but, for the most part, Landon and writer Scott Lobdell have loads of fun playing with the rules. It's a slasher comedy that allows its leading lady to flip the bird at the usual clichés, instead of simply and sadistically punishing her.

General release from Fri 20 Oct.

Happy Death Day

  • 3 stars
  • 2017
  • US
  • 1h 36min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Christopher Landon
  • Cast: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine
  • UK release: 20 October 2017

Student Tree Gelbman (Rothe) is forced to relive the day of her grisly murder over and over again until she finds out who killed her. Rothe deftly switches between terror, exasperation, composure and mischief, in a surprisingly funny and effective horror comedy which is very aware that it’s Scream meets Groundhog Day.