Happy Death Day mixes humor and horror

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Happy Death Day mixes humor and horror

Amanda Ebner

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The latest in a slew of October horror flicks, “Happy Death Day” opened in theaters on Friday the 13th. In short, the premise is that sorority girl Tree, short for Teresa, is stuck reliving a birthday over and over again. If this is sounding a bit like a rebooted “Groundhog Day,” don’t worry, there’s a twist. Each day ends with Tree’s murder.

Happy Death Day (2017)

After she realizes her situation, she sets out to find a way to escape her time loop and beat the masked person determined to kill her.

Now, someone might ask, is “Happy Death Day” a good horror movie?

No.

Warning, there are spoilers ahead.

“Happy Death Day” is not a particularly good horror movie. There are a couple of jump scares and a few fake outs, but nothing is particularly different from any other typical slasher film. The murderer behind Tree’s many deaths isn’t difficult to figure out. Aside from a few pulse-pounding scenes, the average viewer won’t be scared for Tree. Part of this is due to her not being a very sympathetic character, and up until the last 20 minutes or so of the movie, the viewer knows Tree is just going to die again.

And here lies a flaw with the premise. The entire point of the movie rests on Tree dying every day and waking up to the same day again. Because of this, the audience knows that no matter how Tree tries to fight it, until the end of the movie, she’ll keep dying. There’s little tension involved in a fight scene when the viewer knows the outcome. Occasionally, a character other than Tree falls victim to the killer by being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but even those deaths quickly lose their impact when the viewer realizes that these too will be undone when Tree dies yet again.

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But do these flaws make “Happy Death Day” a bad movie?

No. “Happy Death Day” is far from a remarkable horror movie, but when judged as a horror comedy, it’s more than decent. Whether the creators intended this to be the case is unclear. The marketing of the movie as a typical horror film would suggest that they did not, but certain parts of the movie, including the choice to show a montage of Tree trying and failing to escape death over the course of many nights to the track of an upbeat pop song, seem too funny not to be intentionally so. This is hardly the movie’s only source of humor. From its continual cracks at the stereotype of the southern sorority girl, to some absurdly funny scenes that can’t be recounted here because it would spoil it, the movie elicited many more laughs than screams. Even when not being outright funny, when Tree was not currently engaged in a struggle with her murderer, odds are that the mood was upbeat. It was refreshing to see “Happy Death Day” make fun of the ridiculousness that ensues when the tropes of two different kind of movies are mixed.

In the end, whether “Happy Death Day” is worth the price of admission depends on the viewer. If you’re looking for a true scare–a movie that will leave you afraid to go to sleep at night, then you should keep looking. But if you’re looking for a mix of horror and humor–something that will make you laugh out loud just as often as your heart is pounding, then seeing “Happy Death Day” will make quite the happy day.

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