Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Happy Death Day

Tree wakes up on a normal day in a stranger's dorm room. She goes about her day generally being rude to people and dismissive of others until she's on her way to a party. A music box is set in the middle of a tunnel surrounded by construction lights and barriers. A baby masked killer stabs her to death and then she wakes up right back in that strange dorm room on the same day. This day, she makes it to the party, but also is stabbed to death while techno music blasts and no one can hear her screams. Tree has to find out who her killer is so she can see tomorrow.

Happy Death Day takes the concept of Groundhog's Day and gives it a horror twist with emotional weight. Tree starts out as a pretty odious person who doesn't really care about anyone but herself. She goes through her day kind of like a wrecking ball, ruining people's days and putting people down left. It can be as small as refusing to smile at a sorority sister or it can be as big as refusing to acknowledge ghosting someone she dated or sleeping with her married professor. It only takes her two days to figure out that she has to do something different and it isn't just deja vu. She starts by trying to figure out who keeps killing her, but she also changes how she goes about her day. It doesn't matter where she goes or what she does; the baby masked killer always finds her. Tree makes a suspect list and marks each person off when she finds they’re innocent.

Tree has a lot going on underneath her facade especially about her birthday which she didn’t want to tell anyone about. She shares it with hr mother, who she was close to and who died. After her mother’s death, her personality changed and she became the callous and unfeeling person she is today. Repeating the day over and over made her face the awful decisions and actions that come naturally now. Over time, she decides to smile at her sorority sister, break up with her married boyfriend, stand up to her awful sorority sister, start over with her roommate, encourage the closted gay man trying to date her, and reconnect with her father. When she finally arrives at dinner with her father, Tree is honest with him instead of pretending everything is fine. Her birthday makes her sad and lost because of the loss of her mother. The scene is very sweet and emotional when Tree finally shares her feelings and acknowledges their shared loss.

A sweet romance starts between Tree and Carter, the owner of the dorm where she wakes up every morning. Even though she’s mean to him, he always treats her with kindness and understanding. She assumes they had sex, but he reveals halfway through the movie that he let her sleep in his bed while he took his roommates’s bed because she was drunk. Every day he gives her advice and doesn’t act like her experience is totally insane. Carter even sacrifices himself to protect her from the killer. Tree thought she might beat the killer at that point, but opts to kill herself instead to make sure he’s alive when time finally moves forward. I usually hate romances in teen horror, but this one was adorable and well done.

Happy Death Day was so much better than I ever expected. The cyclical day is never explained. The killer is almost supernaturally good at tracking Tree’s movements and killing her in a variety of ways including stabbing, poisoning, and most spectacularly being blown up in a car. Their identity comes as a surprise. The reason for the killing is not great, pointed out by Tree, but people kill for dumb reasons all the time. I also didn't even notice that it was a PG-13 movie. The stakes were high and the violence didn't pull punches. It's definitely worth a watch.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

No comments: