Illustration by Elena Griedel
Under normal circumstances, horror movies are frightening. These are not normal circumstances. Expecting a thriller, I walked into the theater bracing myself for jump scares left and right. However, what I found was completely unanticipated: although there were some jump scares, I didn’t spend the whole movie being nervous for the next one. What Happy Death Day manages to do is slip an element of stupidity into the circumstances, so being scared isn’t the main focus; it has just the right amount of comedy to alleviate the horror. Obviously death is abundant in this movie, but viewers are spared the blood and gore and are left laughing at the sheer ridiculousness of it all. Murder has never been more enjoyable.
In the movie, a college girl lives through her birthday, avoiding her worried father and embodying the classic sorority ditz to a tee; she obviously doesn’t care about anyone other than herself. At the end of the night, a mysterious killer in a baby mask stabs her while she heads to a party, and she finds herself back in the dorm room where she started the day. She inevitably has to relive her birthday until she solves her own murder — and in turn, kills the culprit before they can kill her. Honestly, this is on the verge of being a tired idea; Groundhog Day, 11 Birthdays, and more have already been done. In retrospect, that’s how it goes: someone comes up with a great idea, and it gets copied over and over again until people are bored. That said, I didn’t mind the lack of creativity because that wasn’t the point of the film. In fact, this movie was chock-full of stereotypes, which only served to appease fear and further any hilarity.
One plot hole is that the reason she’s reliving this day is never explained. In the end, it seems like even the murderer didn’t know that the day was repeating. What, then, is the point of the day repeating if it wasn’t orchestrated by the killer? Probably to give the plot some sort of depth and uniqueness given the lack of subplot or character development. However, the absence of anything remotely interesting doesn’t necessarily make this a bad movie. On the contrary. I would liken it to a chick flick: relatively meaningless but lovable nonetheless. This is definitely a movie to put on at a Halloween party in that it doesn’t require a lot of attention.
College and sorority stereotypes were exploited to their full capacity in this movie. Hook-up culture plays a large role, dieting makes an appearance, and let’s not forget jealousy and pettiness. By transporting the classic slasher to the university setting, the writers instantly added a comedic element to Happy Death Day, whether it was intentional or not. The presence of dumb millennials pushed this movie out of the horror category and into the spoof zone, and we all love spoofs.
An unfortunate aspect of this film is that, as far as I can tell, it does not pass the Bechdel test. For the uninitiated, the Bechdel test asks whether a story features at least two named women characters who have a conversation with each other about something other than a man. It’s disappointing, but I will say that it’s not really necessary for such a conversation to happen in this movie, given its mocking nature. I wouldn’t expect as much from a movie that’s making fun of girls who stereotypically only ever talk about boys, so I’ll let it slide.
Something worth mentioning is the film’s musical score: it’s deliciously cliché. The classic sad violins sing in the background as the main character has a serious talk with her dad; the unsettling drums and dissonant strings can be heard as the murderer creeps up behind her. It feels that they’re reusing bits from previous movies. It’s unfortunate in the best way, though; it adds to the general goofiness.
This movie is the perfect arbitrary combination of thrill and comedy; it’s something you could just watch, enjoy, and forget. Regardless of what its filmmakers were going for, it was humorous, and I’ll take that over a normal slasher any day. It’s a thoughtless movie outside of the boy-meets-girl genre, which is rare, and frankly quite pleasant. If you’re looking to poke fun at a movie, or even horror movies in general, Happy Death Day is for you.