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HAPPY DEATH DAY: Scream Meets Groundhog Day Is A Surprise Party

Happy Death Day is a fun slasher film that likens back to the slasher days of old, albeit with a Groundhog Day twist.

HAPPY DEATH DAY: Scream Meets Groundhog Day Is A Surprise Party

This Halloween season it looks like you’ll have two horror movie options, Happy Death Day or Jigsaw, both products of earlier times. Happy Death Day looks to resurrect the ’90s Scream era, while Jigsaw tries to make audiences fall in love with the 2000s all over again. However, while both don’t particularly look like game changers, such as It Comes At Night or The Witch, Happy Death Day‘s Scream meets Groundhog Day concept is sure to offer movie-goers a fun and silly Halloween experience.

Self-centered sorority sister, Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe), wakes up with a terrible hangover in an unknown guy’s (Isreal Broussard) bed on her birthday. As she continues her day, she can’t help but feel a sense of déjà vu. As night approaches, she meets a masked killer that takes her life. Abruptly, Tree wakes up in the same guy’s bed and must live her birthday all over again until she can figure out exactly who is killing her.

A Fresh New Party

Happy Death Day feels like it shouldn’t work but there are many elements that help elevate this modern slasher. Jessica Rothe is the worthy star to this film. She shows a surprising range, and it tremendously helps her cliché college character. Rothe does her best with the material she’s given, and even though it doesn’t seem much, she’s able to make it work. Notably, her acting makes the dialogue and the writing digestible. Even when she comes off as a despicable person, the audience can connect with her as she’s able to maneuver through it with charm.

HAPPY DEATH DAY: Scream Meets Groundhog Day Is A Surprise Party

source: Universal Pictures

Still, wearing the Scream legacy on its sleeves, Happy Death Day is the modern horror-comedy totally aware of the horror tropes and the audience watching it. Though it doesn’t break the fourth wall, it’s able to play with the tropes just enough to mess with you. While not as clever as Wes Craven, director Christopher B. Landon is still able to make pretty smart jabs that horror-fans will surely smile. It’s a film that’s not so much there to scare you, but it often tries to make you laugh with its brand of frank, dark humor.

When The Candle Gets Blown

However, it’s whole self-awareness does come with flaws. There are moments where Happy Death Day forces itself to play into clichés, and though it’s aware of this, it feels like a cop-out. Mostly due to the writing, it tries to masks its faults with its self-aware facade. It uses this device to hide its bad writing, and it isn’t hard to notice. Even when it doesn’t hide its sloppy writing, there are moments where it gets in the way of suspenseful moments. It cuts away any tension it’s trying to build and often comes off as silly.

HAPPY DEATH DAY: Scream Meets Groundhog Day Is A Surprise Party

source: Universal Pictures

The premise of the film is a bit silly as well, but it’s something that has been done before in other movies and much better than Happy Death Day. I get that it’s playing with the whole déjà vu concept, but this film gave me some Before I Fall vibes. Both films consist of a female protagonist dying and relieving it all again. It also features teensy drama and the same cheesy simplistic message that was a major problem in that YA movie. Moreover, the film can’t seem to find its own voice. As much as it plays with the tropes, it remains a Scream-Groundhog Day crossover.

A Gift For Slasher Fans

While it may not be the next Scream, Happy Death Day offers a nice sleepover horror that’s easy to digest, especially during the Halloween season. It’s a fun, short, and a light horror-comedy perfect to watch with Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer.

HAPPY DEATH DAY: Scream Meets Groundhog Day Is A Surprise Party

source: Universal Pictures

If you’re like me, then you’ve been missing these types of harmless slasher flicks. With horror cinema over-saturated with supernatural horrors like The Conjuring and Annabelle, Happy Death Day is oddly fresh, in the sense that we don’t see slashers anymore. It fills the void for hardcore slasher fans and will no doubt please mainstream horror fans who, for the most part, rejected the post-horror trend. It’s more of a celebration for early ’90s slasher films, and in that place, it surprisingly fits.

With a Friday the 13th release date and Halloween not far ahead, the void could also expand to non-slasher fans, as it’s one of the only horror movies coming out this Halloween season. For people not into the whole Saw franchise, Happy Death Day is a friendlier and easier sell. The horror-comedy aims for a wide appeal for people who are looking for a fun Halloween horror movie. It’s a fast-paced film that moves rather quickly without feeling too repetitive. But it’s also quite funny, which will ease people who are not big fans of horror films.

Conclusion: Happy Death Day

With Halloween weighing heavily on its side, Happy Death Day is a harmless horror film that will content slasher fans. It follows in the footstep of Scream while adopting the premise of Groundhog Day. But, it manages to stumble with its own self-awareness and the fact of there being other more superior movies with similar premises.

It may be too much like other films, especially this year’s Before I Fall. However, with the horror market obsessed with supernatural horror movies at the moment, Happy Death Day will surely receive a warm welcome this Halloween from horror fans itching for something without ghosts. If Jigsaw doesn’t step it up, this little horror Groundhog Day film may be part of your next sleepover horror movie marathon.

Are slasher films dead or is there still some hope? 

Happy Death Day came out in theatres on October 13, 2017. Find all release dates here.

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Opinions expressed in our articles are those of the authors and not of the Film Inquiry magazine.

From a young age, I was drawn to films especially the horror and psychological thriller genre. Living in a small town in New Brunswick, Canada, I later fell in love with reviewing and writing about movies. I like to bring my background in Psychology and Religious Studies to my writing and film reviews. Apart from films, I enjoy writing and drawing. However, nothing makes me happier than celebrating Halloween and playing tennis.

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