Fem Goddesses of Horror – Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe)

HAPPY DEATH DAY (2017) is one of the best horror movies in the last twenty years. It’s entertaining, exciting, funny and has some very cool twists and turns. That said, the reason it stands out the most is for the fem goddess lead Jessica RAWR RAWR Rothe. Full disclosure, I totally crush on her. If I ever get my DC MAD LOVE live-action flick with her at the helm as Harley, I’ll know I died and went to heaven.

For those unfamiliar with HAPPY DEATH DAY, it opens with Tree (Jessica Rothe) acting like a sorority skank that’s all ‘tude and no depth, albeit a very, very, sexy one. After a night of heavy drinking, she awakens in Carter’s (Israel Broussard) dorm room. Carter is a goddamn sweetheart with killer dimples. Dimples get me every time. They make me turn into putty. My boyfriend has them too, the sexy cad! Imma give him anything when he smiles. I’m a lucky dame.

Tree is also lucky because despite her acting like a royal bitch, Israel is kind and gentle with her. Also, he’s super cute and patient. The two definitely have chemistry, but Tree is in a rush and irritated with the world, so she leaves without noticing how awesome he is.

She walks the campus and runs into a few peeps before heading back to her sorority house. She’s a complete wench to everyone she encounters and disregards the feelings of even those she considers friends. Her roommate Lori (Ruby Modine) bakes her a cupcake for her birthday, but Tree shows zero appreciation.

If her fuckwit behavior wasn’t bad enough, she’s also sweating the sheets up with her married professor. The girl is in a downward spiral and needs to figure out her own self-worth. It is just that opportunity which presents itself in a very peculiar way.

Later that night, Tree is murdered by a masked assailant, but unlike other whodunits, we don’t simply move onto the next victim. Instead, Tree wakes up and is given the chance to relive her final day over and over again as she tries to figure out who killed her. Unfortunately, she carries battle scars with her every time she comes back, and those do real damage to her body.

That doesn’t mean that dying is without a benefit. The entire ordeal helps Tree become better, more insightful and just more human. The façade of ego and empty vanity fades and underneath, we are introduced to a true Fem Goddess warrior. She is simply a hardcore Rockstar ready to rumble and throw down with any clown, who steps up to her.

I’m happy to say that she soon sees how great Israel is and enlists his help. She falls for him during the process, and it’s super cute! Their adorable courtship appeals to the teen girl that still lives inside of me and loves all that romantic bullshit. I can’t help it! What can I say? I was raised on soap operas and am a sentimental sap. Hey, at least I don’t watch HALLMARK movies. I do have standards!

Pretty soon, poor Tree is close to kicking the bucket, for real. Her sustained injuries are taking their toll. She must act quickly and determine who the killer is or die trying.

I can’t recommend HAPPY DEATH DAY enough. I’ve watched it at least a dozen times and enjoy it more each time I do.

By far, Tree’s evolution is the most compelling aspect of the film. Even when a complete shithead, she’s strong. She is a mean son-of-a-bitch, but she has a lot of fire in her. She goes after what she thinks she wants, even if it is unhealthy and toxic. She doesn’t let others stand in her way and can cut down anyone with a snide remark or a look of disgust.

When she changes and sees the errors of her way, she doesn’t lose any of her strength. It’s just redirected in a new and more positive way. Rather than bullying those around her, she stands up for those being bullied, even to her own detriment.

When Queen Twat of the KAPPAS, Danielle (Rachel Matthews) calls out a girl for unhealthy eating, Tree becomes a complete badass. She grabs a bunch of junk food and scarfs it down right in front of the mega-bitch. She then dumps chocolate milk all over the Danielle’s head. It’s beautiful. I love that scene so much!

When Israel stops by, she plants a huge kiss on him and asks him out. I adore her! She is always in charge of herself, her sexuality, her mind and her prowess. She shows that a fem doesn’t have to be a complete waste-of-space, soulless, piece of trash to be powerful, assertive and express self-determination.

So often, modern movies will make their lead female protagonists defined by their bitchiness and hatred for men. The atrocity that was last year’s BLACK CHRISTMAS (2019) had a whole bunch of dumbass caricatures like that. Those portrayals insult the core of feminism making it all about chicks getting off on spite and one upmanship. Thankfully, HAPPY DEATH DAY steps out of that awful box and shows true appreciation for women. It celebrates female autonomy, equality, intuition and the freedom of thought and expression.

Tree is a multi-faceted, tough, no-nonsense gal with an enormous heart. At her best, she will cut down assholes with quick wit and sarcasm, she’ll pick up an axe and face down her own killer, and she’ll risk her life to save her man. She takes ownership of her mistakes, but doesn’t let them define her. She grows from them and works hard to make things right.

She’s sweet and sensitive, but has a hard exterior that she’s fearful of letting go. When she does, she becomes even stronger than before. Her care and love for both Israel and her father (Jason Bayle) are motivating factors to change her life, uncover her killer and make it to the next day.

If you haven’t seen this, definitely do. It’s great. The sequel is very different, but also awesome.

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