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When ‘Groundhog Day’ meets ‘Scream’: ‘Happy Death Day’ review

It’s Halloween, and with that comes a flood of bad, stupid and pointless horror movies that are clearly ripping off better movies. However, “Happy Death Day” is not one of them.
“Happy Death Day” is the story of Tree (yes, that’s the character’s real name), a girl who’s killed on her birthday by somebody wearing a baby mask. The day after she is killed, she wakes up to find out that when she gets dies she immediately wakes up again on her birthday. The crux of the plot is that Tree then must figure out who is killing her every night and prevent herself from getting killed again.
This is not the most original plot, and yes, “Happy Death Day” is basically “Scream” meets “Groundhog Day,” a fact that the movie actually points out. Despite this, the movie works, and on a compelling level. There is little originality in the plot, but if you’re able to overlook these minor faults, a ripped off and bland storyline, the movie is an overall rather pleasant experience.
The bland supporting characters detracted from “Happy Death Day.” Everyone who wasn’t Tree in the film was very one-dimensional and offered little to the movie other than delivering lines and hitting their marks. On a positive note, Jessica Rothe, who plays Tree Gelbman, carries the film. Because she is the only person on camera for the majority of the movie, the quality of this low-budget blockbuster largely fell on her. Rothe’s likability in this movie is undeniable, evident as she carries the plot forward.
Tree begins as a college student in a sorority who clearly thinks less of those around her and requires constant praise from others in order to feel adequate. After each death, however, she slowly grows into a better person. She sees how her actions affect people and eventually realizes that she is not as good a person as she thinks.
An amazing part of Tree’s character arc is that not only does the audience see her transformation through her acting, there is a transformation in her appearance. She begins with a sullen mystique and darker eye makeup, but slowly as she becomes a better person, her makeup becomes lighter and happier to parallel her change in character.
Let’s be honest: the death scenes in “HDD” were a ton of fun. Some were incredibly brutal, while others were rather comical. However, quite possibly the most enjoyable part of the movie was not the deaths, but how the director, Christopher B. Landon, portrayed college life. It makes you wonder if Landon had ever been to college because the portrayal of higher learning in this movie is completely unrealistic.
The school’s mascot is a baby, which goes down as the worst mascot ever. One character casually mentions taking an elective class in advanced neural psychology. Glossing over the fact that this is probably a graduate student class, even if this was offered to undergraduates, this class would not be an elective. The college parties also had poker and pool being played within a very small and confined house. It’s hard to believe anyone has been to any college party ever with people playing poker in the middle of the house.
To sum it up, “Happy Death Day” is not an Oscar winner, but it’s not meant to be. It’s meant to be a fun horror flick to go see around this time of the year. And, in the end, it delivered! After having seen the abomination of a movie “Friend Request,” “Happy Death Day” will restore your faith in the teen slasher horror genre. “Happy Death Day” deserves four out of five stars. Go see this movie with your friends, get a big bucket of popcorn and soda, and enjoy this engaging and well put-together slasher film!

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