Get up. Live your Day. Get killed. Again. Happy Death Day (2017) is a college slasher starring Jessica Rothe (Mary + Jane) as a beautiful, birthday girl named Tree, who gets brutally murdered every day until she can figure out why. This movie has everything, one-night stands, a great cast, innovative kills, an amazing soundtrack, and a killer you’d never expect. This Groundhog Day-esque (1993) horror film bends the rules of the horror genre, giving our girl, Tree (short for Theresa) multiple chances to escape the killer. Known as a time-loop slasher, Happy Death Day comes from Blumhouse Productions, makers of Get Out (2017), Split (2016), and Whiplash (2014). I haven’t seen Split but Get Out is one of the best horror movies of all time. Death Day is a brilliant slasher you’ll want to watch again and again. Death Day is brilliantly directed by Christopher Landon (Paranormal Activity 3) and features the witty writing of Scott Lobdell (X-Men, the TV series). Since the film is PG-13, most of the drug use, drinking, and kills take place off-screen. So, if you’re looking for torture porn, you won’t find it here. But if you want to witness one of the greatest metahorror films since the Scream (Wes Craven) franchise, look no further. Since the first Scream premiered in 1996, few slashers have attempted metahorror, when characters know they’re in the horror genre. The Final Girls (2015) did an awesome Scream-like take on horror, but that film was strictly comedy. Death Day is really the first slasher to model itself after Scream in a serious way. There is plenty of humor in Death Day, but you’ll be on the edge of your seat in suspense all 96 minutes. The film opens to the credits starting over and over again, a nod to Scream 4 (2011), where the opening kill scenes kept being revealed as Stab films, the movie within a movie in the Scream world. But unlike the Scream franchise, Happy Death Day, also follows in the footsteps of cult comedies Groundhog Day, Mean Girls (2004), and Sixteen Candles (1984). Mean girl, Tree, rules of the world of her sorority with grace and cruelty. But her one-night stand, Carter, played by the adorable Israel Broussard, doesn’t have much street cred on campus. The film opens to Tree’s phone going off, Hey it’s my birthday, and I don’t gotta pick up my phone … by The Trak Cartel. We repeatedly see this opening scene as Tree wakes up hungover in a stranger’s bed on her birthday, September 18th. Luckily that stranger is a doe-eyed nice guy, who agrees to help Tree solve the mystery. Unfortunately for Carter, he’s a total geek, so Tree wants nothing to do with him for the first few repeats of her birthday. Every time Tree wakes up in Carter’s dorm room, he stutters something nerdy like, “We should hang out sometime” only to have Tree take some of his Tylenol and slam the door in his face. Every time she wakes up, she runs out into the quad in a looped walk of shame, only to die again at the hands of the mysterious killer. Every scene starts over with Tree ignoring a plump girl trying to save the world from global warming, as she rushes past frat bros, back to her room in her sorority. When Tree gets back to her room each time, her pre-med roommate has a cupcake with one single candle waiting for her. And every time, Tree throws the cupcake in the trash. While this may seem rude to some, it seems pretty smart to me. Tree’s roommate, Lori (Ruby Modine, Shameless) is sketchy as fuck. And the cupcake looks like something Martha Stewart made in prison, frosted with a discarded heroin balloon. Unlike the big-breasted and well-groomed girls in the rest of the house, Lori doesn’t wear makeup or any actual clothes. Each morning, Lori is there waiting, in her weird medical scrubs (we get it, you’re pre-med, calm down) and an eerie smile. Although Tree repeatedly treats Lori like the bottom-feeder that she is, Lori insists on making Tree a cupcake for her birthday. Firstly, what sorority girl actually consumes carbs? And who the fuck makes one single cupcake? Where are the other 23 cupcakes? Why is Lori waiting up all night for Tree to come home if they don’t even like each other? Tree’s not here for Lori’s shit and throws the cupcake away every damn time. Just when we begin to suspect Lori of something sinister, it turns out a crazed killer has escaped from the local hospital, and he’s the one who finds Tree and guts her like a fish. Escaped killer and greasy psychopath, Joseph Tombs (get it? tomb?) played by Rob Mello, looks like Charles Manson on a meth binge. Every time Tree relives her birthday, it ends with Mr. Tombs escaping the hospital and killing her repeatedly until she dies all over again. At first, we can’t be sure he’s the killer since Tombs wears a mask right out of The Strangers (2008) like many other frat bros on campus. Watching the movie in the theatre, my friend was consistently trying to guess who the killer was. All we knew was that the killer was wearing a mask and had the body of a man. While my friend is not much of a horror fan, he was mostly concerned with solving the mystery. I took a different approach to watching this film, which was just staring in awe of how amazing it was, already making plans to see this film again. I didn’t care who the killer was just like I didn’t care in Scream. What caught my attention about this film it was set to release on my birthday, October, Friday the 13th. As a horror fan, getting to have my birthday on Friday the 13th is awesome because so many slashers premiere on that date. Another slasher, The Theta Girl (Christopher Bickel), the first horror movie I’ve had the chance to actually be in, also premiered on October 13th. Multiple slashers being released on the same day all around the country fits well with the theme of Happy Death Day, where Tree relives the day over and over. What I like most about this film is that we have finally have a college slasher where the mean girl gets to be the hero. College slashers are one of my favorite genres of horror because they actually feature women as educated, strong, and empowered individuals. So often women are portrayed as archetypical domestic roles such as camp counselor, babysitter, or plain old housewife. In college slashers like Scream 2 (1997) and Urban Legends (1998), we get to see badass women like Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) and Natalie Simon (Alicia Witt) go to class and engage in high-level critical thinking. Instead of infantilizing women or making them domestic props, slashers that show women in higher education can give a more accurate portrayal of women. Turns out women can be pretty and intelligent. Of course, you’ll always have your sorostitutes, but they always die first as a lesson in morality. Happy Death Day joins the rank of intelligent college slashers with a special twist. In this film, our hero, a college woman named Tree lives the same day repeatedly, getting killed over and over, until she learns her lesson. While Tree is one of the dumbest fucking names given to a character in the history of film, her character is anything but stupid. Tree is a beautiful blonde with a penchant for casual hookups, cheesy ringtones, and a mean girl streak that would scare Regina George (Mean Girls, 2004). Generally, Final Girls, the brave women who survive slashers are fairly androgynous while the more feminine and stereotypical girls get gutted and hung from trees. Think of Sidney Prescott, short, brown hair, no plunging necklines, known for her self-quoted “sexual anorexia.” Sidney survives every Scream film ever made because she’s more focused on survival than matching her bra and panties. Sidney follows in the footsteps of Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis, Halloween) who also had short hair and kept an eye out for the killer while her friends got fucked and killed in the next room. Laurie survives every installment of Halloween and even lives to decapitate the killer, Michael Meyers. No, I do not consider Halloween Resurrection (2002) as part of the franchise. I think of Halloween: H20 (1998) as the final Halloween. It features Laurie Strode as her brilliant, courageous self and, oh yeah, Michael gets decapitated. The dollar store version of Laurie Strode in Resurrection is dumb as shit and doesn’t seem to care about survival. Resurrection is little more than an exercise in White guilt, where director, Rick Rosenthal (Halloween II, 1981), throws Busta Rhymes, Tyra Banks, and Sean Patrick Thomas together for no fucking reason. But Happy Death Day’s Tree is a refreshing change from the androgynous, almost masculine Final Girl. Tree is blonde, sexy, and fucking mean. Tree isn’t here for your shit. Even if Tree had sex with a guy, she feels no obligation to text him back. She’s even part of the mean girl squad on her college campus, a sorority full of sociopathic bitches. It’s refreshing to see a hot, mean girl as the Final Girl because it shows women can be sexual people and still survive. Tree’s cruel status also resonated deeply with me, as I was a mean girl all the way through college (and into my late twenties if I’m going to be honest). I’m the girl who was captain of the soccer team, editor of the yearbook, and took three guys to senior prom. I actually had 15 or 20 ask me to prom and I ended up with three finalists based on the gifts they left in my locker. I went to lame girls’ parties and set fire to their decorations. I stole boyfriends, I keyed teachers’ cars, I shoved unpopular girls into thorny bushes. I see a lot of myself in Tree because she realizes she doesn’t have to be nice. Tree is hot, smart, funny, and well-liked. But unlike Tree, I’d never fuck any of my married professors (or single ones). But Tree doesn’t stay a mean girl for long. Much like Groundhog Day, where the protagonist must learn how to be a better person to stop the loop, Tree has some serious thoughts and behaviors to change. As a reformed mean girl, I can tell you that it’s pretty damn hard to change who you are. Not only does Tree use people, she’s also screwing her science professor, who happens to be married to a very nice, albeit, clueless woman. Tree also blows off birthday dinner with her father each year, because she can’t face the death of her mother. As someone who’s recently gone through a death in the family, I can tell you that unhealthy coping mechanisms are a hell of a lot more fun. Why would Tree want to spend time with her father, talk about her feelings, see a therapist? Why would she even talk about her mother’s death when repression, drinking, and casual sex is so much more fun? So yeah, Tree has a bit of self-reflection to do if she really wants to deal with the loss of her mother. At some point, Tree even says, “All this running and hiding has made me so miserable.” Because running from your problems may be less painful, but it’s a lot of work. Lying to yourself, telling everyone you’re fine, numbing every emotion until all that’s left is apathy and rage, it’s fucking exhausting. Eventually, you reach a point where you can’t turn your humanity back on. You’re just this emotionally unavailable zombie, one traffic jam away from screaming. Luckily for Tree, she’s in a time-loop slasher with several chances to reform her ways. Tree gets weaker each time she comes back, so the clock is ticking on her self-reformation. In order to survive, Tree begins to change her ways. She ends up standing up for one of her sorority sisters who is painfully fat-shamed by bitch-in-charge, Danielle (Rachel Matthews). At first glance, Danielle seems like she could be the killer, giving a serious Regina George vibe, displaying a clear hatred for pretty much every girl in the sorority. Danielle mocks deaf people, fat-shames girls that aren’t even that fat, and constantly asserts her alpha status in the sorority in increasingly sociopathic ways. But Danielle would be too on-the-nose as a killer and she has no real motive. Danielle is just one of those dumb bitches who thinks Greek Life actually matters. Each time Tree wakes up, we get closer to finding out who the killer is, and what Tree must change about her life to end the loop. But before Tree reforms herself, she goes through several loops refusing to change anything, much like the protagonist from Groundhog Day. Tree’s one-night stand, Carter, becomes an important ally, helping Tree piece together the puzzle until they eventually figure it out. In the first loop, Tree goes through her day as her usual, sociopathic and condescending self. She dismisses Carter’s attempts to connect, blows off birthday dinner with her father, continues the affair with her professor, and gets killed at a party by a masked killer. In the second loop, Tree starts to realize she’s reliving the same damn day. This time-loop speaks to the symptoms of grief Tree has after losing a parent, because depression can make every day feel exactly the same. Listen to the Nine Inch Nails song and you’ll know what I mean. In “Every Day is Exactly the Same” depressive symptoms in the lyrics align perfectly with Tree’s situation, I believe I can see the future because I repeat the same routines. I think I used to have a purpose, then again that might have been a dream. I think I used to have a voice, now I never make a sound. Tree is mired in her depression, the loss of her mother, her complete lack of purpose. But in this repetition, comes the ability to see the future, to see patterns, and that’s her key to survival. By the third time-loop, Tree starts to keep a list of classmates who could be suspects. As we know from horror geek Randy of Scream, “There’s a formula to it. A very simple formula! Everybody’s a suspect!” But even though Tree eventually learns the killer’s identity, the escaped lunatic from the hospital, that doesn’t stop her from being bludgeoned by a baseball bat, burned alive, and stabbed repeatedly. Then Tree begins to realize, maybe this escaped psycho isn’t the only killer, maybe there are two. In another loop, Tree starts to think that finding the killer isn’t her only motive, maybe she really does need to become a better person. She starts by ending her affair with the British married professor who turns out to be a total fucking twat. Tree even agrees to birthday dinner with Dad in attempts to comfort him and come together as a family. The moment is touching, seeing Tree finally reach out to her father, finding solace in each other’s grief. If I were someone who cried, I’d probably be sobbing through this entire scene. Tree and her mother shared the same birthday, September 18th, so we see why this day is especially painful for her. As Tree promises to be a better person, she finally arms herself with weapons to stop the masked killer (finally, bitch). Since Tree has relived this day many times, she knows exactly when the campus power outage will occur and uses that darkness to kill the killer. Tree has finally gained her Final Girl status, as she gives up casual sex and drinking to take down the killer. Relieved that it’s finally fucking over, Tree celebrates her birthday with Carter, Sixteen Candles-style, at long last eating the cupcake Lori made her. Hey, it’s my birthday, and I don’t gotta pick up my phone … Tree’s birthday ringtone blasts and she wakes up in Carter’s bed. Again. Carter asks Tree if she remembers what happened and tells her happy birthday, again. Fuck. Killing Tombs didn’t stop the time loop. Tree still died. Has she not reformed herself enough? Was there really a second killer? Will these loops every goddamn end? Tree runs back to her room for what seems like the millionth time and is again greeted by Lori and that damn cupcake. Tree comes to the great realization that could finally end the loop forever. In the last loop, Tree actually eats the cupcake, and turns out, it was poisoned. In every preceding loop, Tree had thrown out the poisoned cupcake and was killed by a conveniently escaped killer. Suddenly Tree puts the pieces together. Tombs, the psychotic killer, escapes from the hospital where Lori works, so Lori is the only one with access to Tombs. Lori poisoned the cupcake and when Tree refused to eat it, she let Tombs out to go after Tree and kill her. It wasn’t enough for Tree to stop Tombs, she had to stop Lori too. At first, Lori attempts to feign innocence, claiming there’s nothing wrong with that oddly single cupcake. If there’s nothing wrong with the cupcake, why wouldn’t Lori eat one too? Just as Tree looks at Lori with overwhelming suspicion, Lori shoves her to the ground still going for death by cupcake. We finally get to Lori’s motive. Apparently, Lori was in love with professor-cheats-on-his-wife and was jealous as fuck that he chose Tree over her. Seriously, that’s your motive? Just when we’re about to get mad at the writers, we are reminded that we’re in a meta-slasher and Tree echoes our concerns. If Lori wanted to fuck the slutty professor she could’ve just worn make-up and dyed her hair blonde. Lori could’ve worn a slutty shirt instead of her androgynous medical scrubs. It’s just so much effort to murder your rival. I mean that professor probably had a ton of extramarital affairs, so if Lori couldn’t get him in bed, that’s on her. The girls begin to fight, the poisoned cupcake still in the room, slamming each other around, making loud noises. This catches the attention of bitchy sorority president, Danielle, who shouts about the noise, which in turn, distracts Lori. Our Final Girl, Tree, shoves the poisonous, poorly-frosted cupcake in Lori’s mouth in a moment of poetic justice. Seriously Lori, your lack of game is a dumb motive and you didn’t even use a pastry bag to frost that cupcake. Knowing Lori, she probably used icing and not even real frosting. Badass Tree deepthroats Lori with the deadly cupcake and defenestrates her. We happily watch Lori plunge to her death. Convinced the loops have finally ended, Tree wakes up the next morning to see Carter. Carter looks at her and says again, “You probably don’t remember my name … it’s Carter.” Fuck. Tree killed both killers, so how is she still in a loop? Carter reveals he’s pranking her and that the loops are finally over. The two share a kiss and the couple lives happily ever after (well until Tree probably leaves him for a hotter guy because this is college). The film ends with the sorority girls talking about how obvious it is that Lori’s the killer. This is a nice nod from the writers, as if to say, how did you miss this? One sorority girl supports this claim with the best lines in the movie, “She never wore makeup never took cute selfies—she even had Crocs. What a psycho. Her plan was stupid. We don’t eat cupcakes.” The film ends with lovebirds Carter and Tree talking about the insane time-loops and their near-death experiences. Carter steps up his game and offers one of the best pick-up lines of all time, “So now that your room’s a crime scene …” which Tree happily accepts. Carter holds her close and says, “This is like Groundhog Day” to which Tree responds with a look of confusion. Carter is incredulous, “You’ve never seen Groundhog Day? With Bill Murray.” Our Final Girl is smart, but she’s still blonde, so Tree ends the film with one final question. “Who’s Bill Murray?” Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.