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Groundhog Slay 

Teen horror at its dumbest and most entertaining

This might not work out well for anyone.
  • This might not work out well for anyone.
M

y dad and I watched "Happy Death Day" together and felt totally pervy. We were the oldest people in the theater by many decades, as most of the audience appeared to be tweens on a "date." The cast of the movie is also mostly teenagers and all the previews were aimed at either young kids or that desirable 16 to 23 demographic.

Needless to say, we felt very out of place and assumed the movie was going to be so stupid that our faces would hurt from all the grimacing and pained expressions of mirth. By the closing credits we were completely proven right, since the movie is incredibly dumb—but also super fun for a basically bloodless teen slasher movie.

"Happy Death Day" follows a prototypical sorority mean girl named Tree (Jessica Rothe) who wakes up hung over, on her birthday, in the dorm room of a guy she doesn't remember going home with. She goes through her day treating people like crap and basically being shallow and cruel to anyone she meets. That night, as she's walking to another frat party, someone in a black hoodie with a creepy mask and a butcher's knife murders her in an underpass.


After a brief flash of light, she wakes up in the dorm room again, cursed to relive the day of her death over and over until she can save her own life or kill her mysterious murderer. It's basically a slasher version of "Groundhog Day," but, you know, for kids—and apparently grown men in a movie theater filled with tweens.

The movie changes up Tree's death day enough so the movie doesn't become too repetitive, but the main problem is that the few plot twists in the third act are predictable and nonsensical. As much fun as it is watching the horrible Tree get murdered over and over until she starts becoming a good person, the framework for the entire story is so shaky that Jessica Rothe's performance ends up carrying the entire movie.

Rothe is going to be huge after this. She's in every frame of the movie and her "Mean Girl" is just as believable as her "Final Girl." Tree is basically the character that dies first in a typical slasher movie; Buffy the Vampire Slayer with no helpful skillset. Watching Rothe inject humanity and warmth into a role that could have been played only on the surface is wonderful. Without her performance, this movie would be an intermittently entertaining waste of a good concept.

As fantastic as Rothe is and as cute as the romantic subplot tries to be, the story constantly lets down the cast as they all try and make something cool out of a bunch of convoluted contrivances. Slasher movies don't necessarily need to be bastions of proper storytelling structure, but when you throw in a sci-fi concept ripped off from one of our collective unconscious' most beloved movies, you'd better do something memorable—at least enough to make the grown-ups in the audience feel a little bit better about themselves.

Happy Death Day

Dir. Christopher B. Landon

Grade: C-

Old Mill Stadium 16 & IMAX, Redmond Cinema



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