A Failed Attempt To Reinvent The Slasher Genre
By now the Groundhog Day concept of reliving the same day over and over has been exhausted in almost every medium and genre. Except horror. Happy Death Day happily fills this void with a simplistic and interesting premise, with a girl forced to relive a day that ends in her death over and over. Although it isn’t terribly original, Happy Death Day tries to reinvent the teen slasher genre but fails in this terribly executed horror/comedy mashup. A little bit Mean Girls, a little bit slasher and a whole lot of stupid, Happy Death Day is a tonally confused comedy/horror film, unsure what it wants to be and in doing so, lacks the finesse to pull off either genre it tries to nail.
The story follows Tree (Jessica Rothe) a spoilt, arrogant student who’s forced to relive her birthday over and over after facing a gruesome death and coming back to life. Borrowing heavily from Groundhog Day, Happy Death Day gleefully treads familiar ground while jumping between being a comedy and horror. Its tonally confused script is littered with poorly implemented suspenseful scenes that fail to generate the intended tension due to the overuse of comedy throughout. Happy Death Day is genuinely funny at times too, full of overacted scenes that would almost be seen as a nudge toward classic slashers but for the seriousness these scenes are given which leads me to believe it’s not intentional at all. Although some of the humour is good, there’s also occasions where its contrived, accentuated by Rothe’s incessant need to overact a lot of her scenes.
Happy Death Day’s biggest problem is not the unoriginal plot line that treads familiar ground. Nor is it the confused genres it clumsily stumbles between. Its Tree herself. Happily presenting herself as one of the most unlikable protagonists in a horror film, Tree is spoilt, rude, arrogant and lacks empathy for anyone around her. Although her character does grow and change in the film (almost instantaneously) into the complete opposite of what we see at the beginning, this development is jarring and ham-fisted into the script. With the main draw being to see Tree try to thwart the killer and outsmart his or her intention to kill, the lack of empathy toward her character ultimately makes these scenes lack the kind of tension and suspense needed to drive the narrative forward. That’s before mentioning the odd inclusion of a “kill montage”, complete with upbeat pop music and a joyous tone whilst Tree tries to decipher who’s got it in for her from her long (and deservedly so) list of people who don’t like her.
The one thing that Happy Death Day does do right is keeping the mystery surrounding who the masked killer is alive until the final climax. It’s a pleasant surprise too, with a decent twist that helps to smooth over some of the bigger issues plaguing Happy Death Day. Going into this expecting a horror or a well paced thriller rife with suspense and decent acting is sure to leave you disappointed. If, however, you go in expecting a goofy comedy complete with a Mean Girls tone and hilarious B movie acting, Happy Death Day is the film for you. For everyone else, there isn’t anything to note here that hasn’t been done better elsewhere.