A college student relives the day of her murder with both its unexceptional details and terrifying end until she discovers her killer’s identity.
As a child of the ’70s, I grew up in a time when slasher flicks were slasher flicks, not the politically correct drivel that has permeated our movie screens for the past twenty years or so. Back then, throughout the ’70s and into the ’80s, horror filmmakers weren’t afraid to show the blood and guts carnage that filmmakers today tend to shy away from. My how things have changed. While many of today’s so-called horror films tend to lean more towards excessive realism, think “Wolf Creek,” “Hostel,” “The Human Centipede,” and “A Serbian Film” to name but a few, horror movies most certainly but so damn realistic and filled with torture porn, that many people turn them off or walk out of the theater. There is enough mayhem and death in the world already so if you’re going to make a horror film, try and add some much-needed humor, and while you want the audience to believe what they’re seeing is really happening to the characters onscreen, have fun with it, and don’t take it too seriously. That is what “Happy Death Day” successfully achieves, a fun movie, filled with moments of gore, and less of a reliance on severe violent bloodshed and more dependence on thrills and humor.
In the vein of “Groundhog Day” and “Edge of Tomorrow,” “Happy Death Day” introduces us to Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe), a self-centered collegian who wakes up one morning in an unfamiliar dorm room. Carter (Israel Broussard) greets her and when she asks how she wound up in his room, he reminds her that the previous night she got wasted at a party and he brought her back to his place to sleep it off. She storms out of the room, embarrassed, and makes her way back to her own dorm. The rest of the day is pretty uneventful and later that night, while on her way to her “surprise” birthday party, she is attacked by a masked stranger. She manages to escape, albeit briefly but the killer catches up with her and just as they plunge their knife into her, she immediately wakes up screaming in bed. Panicked and scared, she realizes that she is back in Carter’s dorm room. He greets her the exact same way he did earlier that morning. Confused, she puts it down to it having been a nightmare but when she leaves, her day unfolds exactly as it did the previous day. Once again, later that evening, she is attacked but this time, she makes it back to her dorm, only to be killed inside. Every time she is murdered, she wakes up earlier that same morning and has to relive the same day over and over, until she is able to figure out what is happening to her and stop the killer once and for all.
Like “Groundhog Day,” we are never really given an explanation as to why this one day keeps repeating itself but that’s okay, the story, performances, and genuinely funny humor more than make up for it. Jessica Rothe, in the central role of Tree, starts out as narcissistic and selfish but as the story progresses, and she begins to relive the same day over and over, she starts dissecting herself, her character, her intentions, and sees a person she does not like. Having kept family and friends at a distance because of the venomous sorority she belongs to, and the cattish influence they’ve had on her, she starts distancing herself from them and her life begins to improve. But even with that development, she still has to figure out who her killer is because every time she is slaughtered, she physically loses her strength. And just when it looks like she’s figured it all out and will live happily ever after, we are reminded that this is a horror film inspired by the slasher flicks of the ’70s and ’80s and that the movie is not over yet.
In theaters Friday, October 13th