As an avid horror fan, stalking movie trailers is a habit of mine. When the trailer for "Happy Death Day" was released, I was both intrigued and skeptical, because while the premise is unique, it came off as a preppy horror flick. Ever since its release in October 2017, I've watched it quite a couple times, and can confidently say I was right — but that's not a bad thing.
The horror genre has been divulging into a few very different pathways. One is psychological thrillers, like "It Follows" and "Hereditary," another is supernatural horror, like "The Conjuring" and "Insidious," and the last is miscellaneous, where films like "A Quiet Place" and "Truth or Dare" and "The Purge" all float around in the many sub-genres of horror. I make this claim of pathways not because they are the only ones that exist, but because they are the two easiest to spot.
"Happy Death Day" could definitely merge into the miscellaneous pathway, but the premise of the movie makes it stand out. With a mixture of Mean Girlesque one-liners — "Or that Uber driver I spit on — What? Nobody's perfect." — and a masked killer, it's actually reminiscent of slasher films. And after some researcher, I found out the reason why is because it was inspired by slasher films. One of them is a popular '90s slasher film.
Yeah, you guessed it. "Scream."
In an interview with Slash Film, the director Christopher Landon discussed the several movies that influenced "Happy Death Day," some of them being "Groundhog Day," "Heathers," and of course, "Halloween." About "Scream," he stated:
"Another strong influence for me. It is one of the best movies to combine genuine scares with big laughs. Wes Craven's balance of tone and Kevin Williamson's amazing script created a movie that defined its time. Post-modern horror was never the same again."
As a big fan of "Scream," I realized this why I've come to love "Happy Death Day," so much. Not because it's trying to imitate the classic slasher flicks, but because it has carved out its own place in the sub-genre. And a lot of that has to do with Tree Gelbman, the main character.
Tree is, in the beginning, made to be dislikable, but progresses differently than other final girls. Firstly, she does undergo a metamorphosis without any literal time passing, since she must relive the same day. Secondly, her personality doesn't seem to change. She keeps her sarcastic (at times, nihilistic) attitude, but uses it to build relationships instead of walls. The character of Tree involves a lot more self-motivation, rather than motivation from the audience, but that, in turn, makes the audience root for her anyway. To make it a bit more clear, unlike other final girls who meet their killer at a climax in the film, Tree must actively seek out her killer multiple times (the self-motivation).
In my personal, arrogant opinion, Tree is a horror princess at a time in which the final girl crown is still collecting dust. She has accomplished a great deal, but there's a lot left for her to discover, especially when it comes to the frustrating phenomenon of her daily repetition.
That seems to be the one hanging thread of "Happy Death Day." The science-fiction aspect. Although Tree takes her dilemma in stride, the mechanisms of her repeating day never get confronted. Thankfully, due to its box office success of $123 million worldwide, "Happy Death Day" will be getting a sequel that explores Tree's time-loop trouble. It's hard to say whether the second installment will lean more towards the horror genre or the sci-fi genre, but the desire of another movie at all is important.Especially with the revival of the "Halloween" franchise this upcoming October 2018, it's possible that the slasher genre is making a comeback and "Happy Death Day" will definitely be a part of it. I only hope that Tree will be given the proper amount of attention and be able to claim her horror crown.