Imagine reliving the same birthday over and over again for the rest of your life, only to have a masked murderer kill you in a new way at the end of each day. Drowning, burning, getting stabbed, even being forced to consume a poisonous cupcake—these make up the nightmarish reality that the protagonist in Happy Death Day inhabits. And then she somehow continues to wake up the morning of her death day.
Directed by Christopher Landon and released on Friday, October 13, by Blumhouse Productions, Happy Death Day tells the story of Tree (Jessica Rothe), a college student who wakes up one morning in the dorm of her classmate, Carter (Israel Broussard), trapped in an eternal loop of scary dreams.
The movie kicks off with Tree waking up, but by the end of each day, she is killed again. After this sequence becomes routine, Carter suggests that if Tree could identify her killer, she might escape this stream of nightmares.
Tree takes his advice and creates a list to narrow down the possible murderers. By the end of her movie, through process of elimination, she finds the killer.
One of my favorite aspects of the movie is Tree’s development, which Rothe portrays beautifully. Tree starts the movie as an unkind and selfish person who mistreats her roommate, disregards her father, and gets
involved in an affair with a married professor. But then her behavior improves. She signs up for a campaign to help stop global warming, encourages a previous romantic interest to be open about his sexual orientation, and greets classmates around the campus. Tree transforms into a friendly roommate, a loving daughter, and a loyal girlfriend. This dimension of the movie serves as a good balance to the violence and horror that appear throughout.
However, while Happy Death Day is violent, it actually has very few gory scenes. Beyond moments in a few one-on-one battles, the movie is free of gore and instead just alludes to murder, like when the screen shows a bloody knife or when viewers hear cars honking and crashing. The jump-scares and dramatic background music compensate for the lack of visual gore, which I actually liked, since so many horror movies tend to rely on blood and guts.
But the ending of the movie—which I will not spoil now—is fairly predictable. About halfway through the story, I could tell what was going to happen and, not surprisingly, I was correct. And Happy Death Day, seeking to incorporate both comedy and horror, doesn’t realize either genre to its full extent. It’s not funny enough to be a comedy, and it’s not eerie enough to be a horror, so as a whole the movie feels unsatisfying, like a half-finished product.
So if you’re expecting a typical horror movie or a hilarious, rolling-on-the-floor-laughing comedy, look elsewhere. But Happy Death Day delivers great morals along with some jump-scares and sass here and there to enliven the plot. It is a worthwhile movie, as questions pertaining to redemption and forgiveness constantly appear throughout. For instance, can felony be forgiven? Is it too late to restart? How can I become a better person? It may not be the funniest or scariest movie, but it does bring about some good overall themes, so you should definitely check it out.