Horror is such a wonderfully diverse genre. Whether your tastes run to explicit grisly kills or more restrained psychological manipulation, virtually everyone can find a horror movie that will suit their individual tastes. As for myself, I prefer horror movies with a supernatural angle over a slasher flick. Nothing against those who love their knife-wielding psychos; I can certainly appreciate some of those movies. Especially when there is an unusually creative approach to the movie. Scream worked as not only a horror film but also because it took a hard look at tropes of the genre. Similarly, Happy Death Day adds its own twist. Not only does a beautiful woman meet her untimely demise in this movie, she finds herself being savagely killed over and over again in a nightmarish time loop.
Theresa “Tree” Gelbman wakes up on the morning of her birthday in the dorm room of a guy whose name she cannot remember until he reminds her that it is Carter. She makes the walk of shame across campus to her sorority building taking note of the chaotic events occurring around her at the university. That evening as Tree makes her way to a celebration she finds a music box in the middle of the street playing the Happy Birthday song just before she is attacked by a killer wearing a baby mask.
In most slasher movies once a victim is killed but such is not the case here. Tree wakes up again in Carter’s dorm room on the morning of her birthday. Once again she walks back to her sorority and once again events play out just as they did before.
That evening she finds the music box again but this time nobody attacks her. She makes it to a surprise party in her honor and the killer successfully gets to her there. For the third time Tree wakes up in Carter’s dorm room and is genuinely unnerved by events repeating themselves. She begs Carter for help and decides to use this strange time loop to learn the identity of her killer only to realize that the repeated trauma of being repeatedly killed is taking a toll on her body.
I don’t want to analyze these scenes too closely because part of the fun of this movie is spotting the clues cleverly hidden throughout the story. This is the sort of movie which asks you to pay close attention to it but you will be rewarded for your efforts. Jessica Rothe is delightfully sassy as Tree. She is a mean girl that is too much fun to watch but despite everything going on in the movie she still manages to have an arc and grow as a character. Another interesting aspect to Tree is that she is far from stupid. She defies typical horror movie stereotypes by actually doing things that make sense and going on the offensive.
On a side note, look out for little details in the background like Carter’s poster for the movie They Live.
Happy Death Day is so superbly paced and well written that it would be a shame if you don’t see this movie at least once.