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“HAPPY DEATH DAY” (Review)

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When the iconic Universal logo at the top of a film stops and rewinds several times – on purpose – you know you’re in for a fun ride. Happy to report that the Blumhouse horror hit machine has done it again:  Happy Death Day is an inventive, smart thriller combining the best elements of Groundhog Day with an epic slasher like Friday the 13th.

Where Bill Murray’s 1993 classic starts every day with “I Got You Babe” blaring from an old-school digital alarm clock, director Christopher Landon’s clever takeoff has a lovely college co-ed  (La La Land’s Jessica Rothe) waking up in a stranger’s dorm room as a goofy song plays on her smartphone.  It’s her birthday, but that’s no cause for celebration because someone is trying to kill her. Over and over and over… Rothe’s character has a Nebraska-sized chip on her shoulder caused by a family tragedy.  Now she’s rude, abrasive and shallow… until her ordeal forces her to reevaluate her life as she confronts enemies and frenemies to find her killer.  Far from preachy, Happy Death Day is full of plot twists and turns, helped along by snappy directing and editing.  The film perfectly captures a college campus vibe (using Louisiana’s Loyola University as fictional Bayfield College) and the acting throughout is solid, especially Ms. Rothe, who is able to quickly switch gears from slinging snark as a bitchy sorority sister to screaming in terror as a vulnerable crime victim.  Rothe seems to be having a ball, whether she’s running from her hulking killer or proudly striding nude across the campus quad (because no one will remember it tomorrow).   Israel Broussard is goofy and charming as the one person who believes her – a nerdy classmate with whom she may, or may not, have had a one-night stand.  When it comes to rewind thrillers, Happy Death Day is definitely a cut above!


JESSICA ROTHE as Tree and ISRAEL BROUSSARD as Carter in “Happy Death Day.” Blumhouse (“Split,” “Get Out,” “Whiplash”) produces this original and inventive rewinding thriller in which a college student (Rothe, “La La Land”) relives the day of her murder—with both its unexceptional details and terrifying end—until she discovers her killer’s identity.


Happy Death Day opens nationwide on Friday, October 13th.

About the author
Mark Cerulli

Mark was an award-winning writer/producer for HBO for many years, creating on-air content and interviewing over 100 filmmakers and actors. He has also produced content for Monsters HD, Sundance and Epix. He produced DVD docus on two James Bond films and produced/directed DVD docs on the Halloween series for Anchor Bay. He has had four screenplays optioned, including one by HBO. His website is: www.iluminar.tv

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