“Happy Death Day” marks resurgence of slasher flicks on Friday the 13th
“Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”
“I hate this sticker!” Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe, La La Land) says. Jessica is the lead scream queen in this bubbly slasher film which hit theatres on Friday October 13th – a lottery winning release date for a new teen horror.
Happy Death Day, directed by Christopher Landon (Disturbia, Paranormal Activity Franchise), is a youthful psycho thriller that lends its concept from Bill Murray’s 1993 comedy, Groundhog Day, where Murray plays a weatherman caught in a blizzard that he didn’t predict and finds himself trapped in a time warp, doomed to relive the same day over and over again, until he gets it right.
“Who’s Bill Murray?” Tree asks as a nod to the original concept. A question I’m sure other young Millennials will be asking after seeing this ripe slasher flick, too. In Happy Death Day, however, the protagonist isn’t outrunning a blizzard…she’s getting murdered!
Lending proverbial limbs from 90’s slasher classics like Scream and Urban Legend, crude and cliquey humour from teen cult favourites like Mean Girls and Scream Queens, and a cast that eerily resembles already established stars like Jessica Rothe (Blake Lively lite), and her roommate, Lori Spengler (Ruby Modine Of TV’s Shameless, aka Maya Rudolph reincarnated), Happy Death Day attempts to follow in the campy yet thrilling and often hilarious blueprint of it’s predecessors.
As slasher movies go, a masked killer lurks in the shadows of a town or a school campus. This homicidal predator is always out to get a beautiful, young, caucasian woman and her friends, of course. It’s a typical horror recipe that could use a little shake up:
Whodunnit? Damsel in distress after her friends are turning up murdered across campus – the teen slasher plot were accustomed to. What makes for a fun ‘Nancy Drew Experience’ with this film is that on this university timewarp of carnage, Tree’s friends are not a target. Not unless they’re in the killer’s way of killing her. Babyface , the killer not the singer, is only after Tree.
The movie starts with Tree waking up in a strange dorm room with a young man named Carter Davis (Israel Broussard) fumbling by the bedside. With a smile on his face, he turns to her and says, “Oh, you’re awake…” These three words are repeated endlessly throughout the next 96 minutes and every time night falls, Tree is murdered. We see this in the trailer.
No matter where Tree goes or what she does, she is attacked and killed by a psycho in a baby mask on the evening of her birthday. The cartoon baby is also the University’s mascot, so narrowing the culprits down proves painful for everyone; you feel frustration every time Tree is subjected to psychical pain. Over and over. This is Tree’s death day, a twisted murder/mystery story with elements of spiritual rebirth and romantic comedy. A genre shake-up!
Throughout Happy Death Day, director Christopher Landon pours a delectable fusion of thrills, laughs, and adolescent drama into a glass half-full. The character development, on the other hand, is meek. Tree being the only character to show any kind of depth, her superficiality is literally scared out of her and y0u cant help but sympathize. But even her story is choppy and curious. You learn more as the movie unfolds but her estranged relationship with her father, the secrets about her mother, and a love affair with her professor are all very distracting when the places are set and you’re trying figure out who is behind this murderous circus! Perhaps that was the point.
Happy Dearth Day may not be the most exciting, scary or original teen flick, but neither were the rest, really. With a Friday the 13th blessing, laugh out loud one liners – “What’s breakfast, Becky?!” – and a new creepy masked villain to add to the already established list of Hollywood killers, this film marks the beginning of the slasher movie resurgence! Stay tuned for the return of both Halloween and Friday The 13th in 2018!
If you’re looking for all the laughs and cheap shot jump scares a haunted house provides this Halloween season, Happy Death Day will hold your hand down that darkened hallway, make you squirm at the unknown, then laugh with you along the way.
Get Up. Live Your Day. Get Killed. Again.
About the Author
Joey Viola is the Co-Founder of MoJo Toronto and an LGBTQ community leader who utilizes his passion and flair for the art of writing by bringing a fresh perspective in reviewing entertainment and advocating for equality, tolerance, and social/political justice.