‘Happy Death Day’ transcends norms set my horror genre

“Happy Death Day” is not a typical horror film. It uses comedic humor and interesting conceptions of time to add a new layer to the plot, and has received critical and social success. / Courtesy of Vimeo

The idea of waking up on your birthday, which is a supposedly joyous occasion, and ending up dying is an absolute nightmare. Now, imagine waking up all over again and having to continually relive this day until you can solve your own murder. This agony is exactly what protagonist Tree Gelbman goes through in the horror film “Happy Death Day.” Produced by Vassar’s very own Jason Blum, it reaches the high bar set by his other works.

The movie opens up with Tree on her birthday, waking up in Carter Davis’ dorm room with no recollection of the night before. Hungover and confused, she leaves in a hurry and makes her way to her sorority house. Her roommate, Lori Spengler, gives Tree a cupcake with a single candle and says “happy birthday” to her, but Tree ends up throwing it in the garbage. She also ignores her dad’s phone calls numerous times.

Later that night, Tree goes to a party and on her way back, she goes through a tunnel, where she has an encounter with a creepy, hooded figure wearing a mask of the college mascot. The figure kills Tree and she gasps, waking up in Carter Davis’s dorm room.

Tree eventually realizes that she is in a time loop and has to figure out who is trying to kill her because no matter what Tree does, the killer always finds her. She avoids the tunnel, but the killer still catches up to her. She decides not to go to the party and stays in her room, armed with a hammer, but the killer, hiding in her bathroom, murders her.

“Happy Death Day” has gotten a lot of good reviews due to its superb acting and the merging of genres. Jessica Rothe, who plays Tree, is fantastic in this movie and she really brought the character of Tree to life. Her acting was excellent, and the audience quickly becomes enraptured in her terrifying story.

Coupled with humorous dialogue and terriying horror sequences, “Happy Death Day” does a good job of merging these different genres. There are comedic scenes that make you want to laugh. Yes, there was romance in the movie, which was a bit uninteresting, but sweet all the same. Carter Davis is Tree’s love interest and helps her come up with a plan to find out who is targeting Tree. She even deliberately decides to die to go back and try to save him after he is killed by the murderer in one of these nightmarish days. “Happy Death Day” succeeds in being more than just a typical horror movie that you only see because Halloween is approaching. Rather, it transcends horror norms and makes something truly special.

The plot also separates the film from the often bland, stereotypical lines found in most horror movies. It was described as “Groundhog Day” meets “Scream,” with a time loop and a knife-wielding serial killer. It is the “Scream” of our time, which makes the movie so good. It has a refreshing take on teen slasher movies while also paying tribute to those heralded in the horror genre.

I went into the movie thinking it would just be a bit annoying and tedious, with an endless cycle of Tree dying and waking up and dying and waking up, but thankfully that was not the case. Every scene pulled you into the world of Tree, leaving you breathless as you watched Tree try to solve her murder. The creepy ba- by-shaped mask was created by Tony Gardner, the same person who created the Ghostface mask from “Scream,” which adds yet another layer to the parallel.

When watching the movie, you feel like you are a detective. I kept saying to myself that she is the killer, or he is the killer, or the dad could be the killer. The film immerses you into Tree’s nightmare. However, I disliked how the movie tried making it hard to find out who the killer is, but you might guess it. I had my prediction and it was correct. It was obvious, yet my favorite part was when the director threw a curveball at us to divert our attention.

“Happy Death Day” might resemble “Groundhog Day” and be a slasher film, but it is really a unique film. I also did not understand why Tree has entered a time loop. This will definitely be a question that will be on everyone’s minds about the movie. There could have been an explanation instead of the film implementing this element just to add another layer to reduce the monotony present in many slasher movies.

Another reason why the movie was not perfect was the explanation given as to why the killer was after Tree in the first place, as it was really unexciting and lackluster. The movie should have had a good, valid reason worth killing for and one that made sense, giving the viewer a fuller understanding.

Blum never ceases to disappoint, especially with his other films “Split,” “The Purge” and “Get Out,” which is, in my opinion, the best movie I have seen so far. After the movie was over, everyone clapped, which is always an interesting notion of how people felt about a given film. I left the theater in awe, and was happy because it was worth watching rather than doing something else.

Tree goes through a great deal of character development, which I would not really expect in a slasher film, so it was truly surprising for me to actually see it happen, and I was glad it was done in this movie. As annoying, unfriendly and mean as she was , she changed into a loving and caring person. This reveals a new layer of Tree and because of this, audiences would root for Tree to solve her murder.

Tree’s character development in the film teaches her a lesson, as reliving her nightmare makes her realize who she is and what she has to do to be a better person. “Happy Death Day” is a must-see movie and the director has hinted at the possibility of a sequel that would thus explain why Tree goes through a time loop. The sequel has a lot to live up to, with this film transcending the norms set in the horror genre.

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