I don’t know about you, but I can’t believe how fast October has already flown by. Fall break is long gone, the weather’s finally starting to get chilly, and Halloween’s right around the corner. Even though I can certainly watch horror movies all year round, I will say that I’ll miss the new releases that this month has brought. One that I was particularly excited for was “Happy Death Day,” which I saw the same weekend it hit theaters.
At first glance, Theresa “Tree” Gelbman is a pretty one-dimensional representation of a college student: she’s in a sorority, parties on weeknights, and doesn’t care much about attending classes. We find Tree waking up in a dorm room on her birthday at the beginning of the film, where she’s greeted by Carter, the boy she spent the night with. As the day goes on, Tree’s true character is revealed—she throws away the cupcake her roommate made her, she blows off dinner with her dad, and she visits her professor in his office, where we find out that she’s having an affair with him. Tree’s actually a pretty terrible person, so it was kind of hard to root for her once the real conflict begins.
At the end of the night, Tree gets stabbed to death by a nondescript killer wearing a baby mask (which, bizarrely, is the university’s mascot). She wakes up in Carter’s room the next morning, thinking it was just a bad dream…only to be murdered again at the end of the same day. Tree eventually realizes that she’s being forced to relive her death over and over again, so she sets out to solve her own murder and kill her killer before they kill her (say that five times fast).
With “Happy Death Day,” the amount of elements that I liked is equal to the amount of things I could’ve done without. For one, the score was amazing; it created the perfect atmosphere that really made my heart race. I also liked that Tree wasn’t as invincible as she thought she was—although she kept coming back to life after each death, she also came back weaker and with noticeable pain in the areas where she was injured. But one thing that definitely bothered me about this movie was that there wasn’t really a good reason for Tree to be stuck in this time loop. After the first five or so deaths, Tree realizes that she might be able to make her chances of survival better if she stops treating people like garbage. In my opinion, the end goal of Tree changing her behavior to become a nicer person just isn’t enough reason for her to be put through all of this—it’s lazy writing. The writing wasn’t just lazy, though: it was downright bad. The plot and the way the story unfolded were pretty decent, but the dialogue was some of the worst I’ve heard in a long time. Some of my “favorites” were when Tree starts kissing her professor (who’s also a doctor? I don’t understand it either) in his office, and he says, “I have patients,” to which she responds, “But I’m losing mine,” and when Tree asks her friend, “Can you please stop staring at me like I took a dump on your mom’s head?” It’s almost as if the writer has never heard how actual human beings talk to each other.
For as much as I rag on the film, though, I did really enjoy it. I was genuinely surprised when the killer was revealed, and the jump scares got to me plenty of times. Good writing and a good story are pretty hard to find in horror these days—it’s usually one or the other, but rarely both—so it wasn’t that big of a disappointment. “Happy Death Day” kept me entertained, and sometimes that’s all I need from a film.