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Photos courtesy of Universal Pictures

A Slasher Honey New Release Review with Chassity

Happy Death Day (2017)

There are certain things one expects when going to see a horror movie. There’s usually a lot of screaming, some jump scares, and someone is probably going to yell, “Why are you doing this to me?!” And of course, blood and gore usually come with the territory.

But then there are those elements that you don’t normally see in a horror film. You rarely get an emotional backstory, character-driven humor, or, these days, a murder mystery. It’s also becoming more and more unique to find a plot turns into a redemption story.

Happy Death Day, directed by Christopher Landon, has all of these things. And what begins as a simple twist on the slasher genre, morphs into a terrifying spin on Groundhog Day/A Christmas Carol that uses violence as a backdrop for a story that is really about how we deal with grief.

Meet Tree (Jessica Rothe), a beautiful, blonde, millennial sorority girl unlike any we’ve ever been offered as the main character in a slasher film. In fact, the Tree that we meet is typically the horrible ex-girlfriend of the male lead in a romantic comedy. She’s rude and dismissive to everyone around her, narcissistic and superficial, sleeping with her married professor, and is really just a generally unlikable person.

If you haven’t seen the trailers or the actual film yet, here’s what you need to know: Tree keeps waking up in a strange dorm room from what she thinks is a one night stand. On the same day. Having the same conversations. And experiencing the same things. Over and over again. Until someone kills her. Then she wakes up to repeat the same thing again.

Her only hope of stopping the pattern is to figure out the who and the why behind her waking nightmare.

The more times Tree faces the killer, and the more she tries to break the cycle and figure out who’s trying to kill her, the more she learns about herself as she goes down the list of suspects. There’s a surprisingly emotional element that comes with Tree having to do some soul searching, discovering that she doesn’t like the person she has become, and having to figure out why she became that way. And through laughing at the jokes, screaming at the jump scares, and waiting to discover next way Tree dies, the pain and heartache she experiences along the way makes it relatable to anyone watching and renders her a more sympathetic character.

Happy Death Day isn't perfect. The plot itself does require a huge amount of suspension of disbelief and for all of the things the film does well, the one thing it doesn’t do is provide any satisfying explanations. The rules of what is happening to Tree or why it’s happening are never clearly defined. On top of that, some of the emotional moments feel forced and unearned.

But the biggest problem lies with the killer reveal in a film that has, for the most part, made relative sense up until that point. There are two twists; one of which is problematic because it is nonsensical and anticlimactic, and the other because it falls back on tired of stereotypes about female friendship. In a film where a woman empowers herself by facing her demons and embracing her inner strength, a twist that revolves around a male perception of “woman problems” is frustrating. If the creators believed a twist was necessary, there were any number of options that had been set up by the script prior to the reveal. But instead, we end up with an old-fashioned motive that we’ve seen repeated for decades in soap operas and dated horror films.

In the end, though, Happy Death Day can be forgiven its faults because it is so unlike anything we’ve been given recently in the slasher genre. If you’re looking for something to ring in Halloween, Happy Death Day will offer you a great time, while giving you a little something to think about. What more can you ask for in a horror film?

Slasher Honey Rating: 4.5 baby masks out of 5