Love teen slasher movies? Well then you’re in for a surprise, and a twist, with Christopher B. Landon’s Happy Death Day, which takes the classic scream moments of the slasher movie and throws a pinch of sci-fi into the mix for an intriguing, clever and very original horror experience.
When Theresa ‘Tree’ Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) wakes up on her birthday she never thought she’d be murdered. But then again she never thought she’d wake up….to be murdered all over again. Thus a vicious and dangerous pattern starts where Tree awakes to face the same nightmarish day over and over again with a killer that is always waiting for her. Unless she can figure out who the murderer is and stop the cycle it’s a destiny she’ll have to live out….forever!
Originality is a very hard thing to do in the horror genre. It’s a genre whose conventions have been engrained in the minds of cinemagoers for decades, and this is especially felt with the slasher genre which reached its peak craze during the 90s with the likes of Scream (my all time favourite horror film) and I Know What You Did Last Summer franchises. But thankfully Happy Death Day does something different. While it maintains the college campus setting, crazed knife-wielding maniac and a teen coed victim, writer/director Christopher B. Landon throws in a good dose of sci-fi thanks to a time-loop plot point which sets the stage for a really zany and entertaining horror ride.
Make no mistakes, Happy Death Day has some pretty gruesome kills and the horror is pretty gnarly, but the plot device of the time loop adds a dimension of quirkiness and eventful comedy that really makes this film enjoyable. While some of Tree’s death scenes are truly horrifying, others are well flat out laugh out loud funny! That and the unexpectedness of the plot and the twists and turns that the film takes really gets you thinking as an audience member. I really liked this approach as there was a certain detective element to the film and while watching it I found myself building my own suspect list and trying to figure out, along with Tree, who her killer was. It’s so refreshing to see a horror film that makes its audience think and is a tribute to how smart Landon is as a writer/director.
Credit has to be given to Jessica Roche as Tree. Her performance is great and very multilayered. While she starts out as the typical dumb blonde, self-involved sorority girl as the film unfolds through her multiple deaths we begin to discover a far more complicated person who is suffering from some very big issues. Your sympathy definitely builds for Tree and by the third act you are hoping like hell that she discovers who her killer is! And did I mention that Roche plays scared very well. Yep, this girl is a real scream queen and she meets some very intense death scenes.
Out of all the horror sub-genres the slasher genre is by far and away my favourite and Landon does a great job of updating it for a millennial audience. While we all spent our teenage years devouring these twisted little gems, Landon is obviously a study of the genre and has used his knowledge to bring something new to it. I’ve gotta say that he sure is inventive when it comes to killing his protagonist and the kills come in equal doses of viciousness and tongue-and-cheek comedy. For a seasoned slasher veteran like myself, it was a welcome relief to see a different approach being taken to the genre and all of her deaths make Tree a stronger character.
If you’re looking for something that is different and clever, along with providing equal doses of fear-inducing horror and zany comedy then Happy Death Day is one film you should definitely sit down and watch. It takes risks in a genre that normally relies too much on tropes and convention and seriously shakes things up.
Image: Paramount Pictures