By Amber Schiffner
Cliché is a term that is often thrown into reviews of the horror genre. This term perfectly describes the likes of Happy Death Day. This is evident throughout its plot, working the same major trope as Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day. Happy Death Day is a PG-13 thriller that follows a young college student, Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rother), as she relives her birthday countless times; each time ends with her being murdered by a masked villain. Filmed by director Christopher B. Landon and written by Scott Lobdell, the movie leaves audiences with many unanswered questions, the most prominent being, “What did I just watch?”
The movie begins with the same scene viewers will be greeted with to the point of redundancy, a hungover Gelbman waking up in an unknown person’s room. The unknown character, who we soon find out is named Carter, seems concerned for Tree’s well being, while Gelbman is eager to escape his presence. From the opening scene, Gelbman is painted as an unlikable character, which consequently gives each character a motive to want her dead. Throughout the day, each interaction she has with other characters leaves an open possibility to them being her murderer: the guy who reveals Gelbman stood him up, Tree’s housemate who she actively avoids, her roommate who seems annoyed with her lack of care, her professor who she later hooks up with in his office, and the professor’s wife who almost caught them in the act. Gelbman’s day ultimately ends with her birthday party, where on the way to the celebration, she ends up murdered for the first time. This scene is one of the only legitimately eerie scenes in the film, due to the fact it’s relatable for many college students: a walk through campus at night, dead silence, and minimal light.
Tree waking up after her own murder resides in the same vein as the aforementioned Groundhog Day style of storytelling, causing the film to lose its footing significantly. The premise of the film becomes a pseudo-mystery, where the protagonist must solve her own murder. Gelbman goes through the day, constantly erasing possible suspects with every death she experiences. Each time, she gets weaker from the injuries she sustained from the way she was murdered. However, the movie never plays on this concept.
Happy Death Day had a very strong opening, but lost it about 15 minutes into the movie. With the cliché characters and dialogue, the film sometimes had the audience laughing over how painful it was to watch. The ending was predictable at best and left the audience with so many questions, namely about the killer’s motive. Overall, Happy Death Day had so much potential but is ultimately a letdown. Perhaps in about twenty years, we’ll get a stronger remake.