October 4, 2017

Can Happy Death Day Be the Next Horror Blockbuster?

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I enjoyed Happy Death Day just a little more than I would like to admit.

When I was trying to convince my horror movie buddy to come with me to the advanced screening at Cornell Cinema on Monday, he plainly retorted, “that movie looks like trash.” But the idea of seeing the film before everyone else was just too tempting to resist. Well, not saying that it is the best horror movie ever made, but based on the full house and strong audience engagement that night, I do think Happy Death Day can kill it in the box office before Halloween.

Jessica Rothe, who you might remember from La La Land as one of Emma Stone’s roommates, plays the lead girl Tree, a college student who gets killed on the night of her birthday. Worse still, she is stuck in the time loop until she figures out the identity of her masked killer.

The story of Sisyphus has been told so many times already. Groundhog Day, a romantic drama at its core, puts the protagonist in the small town purgatory until he becomes a better person and gets the girl, while Edge of Tomorrow and Source Code take on the sci-fi/action genre. Happy Death Day is the first to test the time-honored formula’s effectiveness in horror, but you really can’t go too wrong with such a fascinating and high-stake premise.

Some other factors that go into the making of the film also feel promising to me. Blumhouse Productions is known for getting low-budget hits off the ground like this year’s Get Out and Split, as well as The Purge and Paranormal Activity franchise. Director and co-writer Christopher Landon has been waiting to get this project done for nearly a decade. And the villain is so, so memorable. That baby mask with huge blue eyes and only one tooth is horrifying — seriously though, what kind of school would pick a mascot like that?

This year is definitely witnessing an increasing amount of horror blockbusters like the aforementioned Get Out, and It, which continues to float in box office and reviews. Yet if you think about it, these three films don’t necessarily fall into the conventional horror formula with stupid protagonists who would scream their heads off in gory jump scare scenes. Instead, horror is but a plot device these films employ to tell a more complicated story. Other than a horror, Get Out is a social commentary/satire, and It is a coming-of-age story with elements of comedy and romance. I wonder what Happy Death Day aspires to be beyond a slasher horror, though. The film is full of stereotypical characters — the self-centered blonde, the young professor she screws, her rival in the sorority, a frat boy who they compete over, and a sweet-as-a-pie guy who just loves her unconditionally. Despite my desperate hope to see these stereotypes get challenged head on, the film doesn’t have that much ambition and seems to be pretty happy with staying in the comfort zone.That being said, the film does have a killer twist that brings it up an entire level. And that’s all I can say without giving it away.

Happy Death Day could’ve won both the audience and the critics easily, but it turns out disappointingly mediocre. I enjoyed it in the theatre, but would I shamelessly bug everyone around me about how much I love it? Will it be remembered? Maybe not.

It hits theatres on Friday October 13.


Ruby Que is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected].