‘Happy Death Day’ emerged as a surprise success of the year 2017. Besides a terrific mint at the box office, which saw it make almost 30 times its original budget, it enthused film aficionados and critics alike. The movie, in all its ingenuity, can be summed up as a more pleasant-looking cross-over between ‘Groundhog Day’ and ‘Scream’. A time loop that the protagonist is stuck in, and a masked serial killer, who murders people in cold blood, with, guess what: a knife. Apart from its similarity with other popular movies, ‘Happy Death Day’ constructs certain nuances of itself that it exploits brilliantly to balance the various genres and emotions it touches upon. Here in this explainer, we’ll talk in detail about the background, plot, and the ending of the movie. Prima facie, it might not look like a film that can be discussed at length, but Christopher Landon, the director of the movie, puts in enough attention and effort to make it so much than just another sci-fi romance.
NOTE: Beware. SPOILERS ahead!
Before we delve deep into the plot of the movie and the little nuances that make it a class apart, it is important to know the background of the characters. Theresa “Tree” Gelbman, the protagonist of the movie, is a college student. A mixture of Regina George and Chanel Oberlin, Tree is part of a sorority and the so-called “mean group” of the college, even though she’s largely materialistic and doesn’t fancy indulging in the group’s activities. Gelbman keeps to herself usually and doesn’t often open up to anyone. Due to the strained relationship she has with her father, Tree’s roommate, Lori Sprengler, a sweet part-time nurse, is the only outlet for Tree to open up to and empathize with. Well, we know how that turns out in the end. Anyway, Tree’s family background points towards a troubled or rather grief-stricken adolescent-hood due to the sad demise of her mother.
From what has been depicted later in the film, as Tree is caught up in the loop and helplessly looks to moments of inspiration, she had a strong and affectionate bond with her mother. The loss of a loved one is often a difficult phase in one’s life and Tree is no different. Her mother’s passing away has not only changed her personality, but also distanced her from her father. The two don’t meet that often and hardly talk to each other about their feelings and hardened grief about the loss of the centerpiece of their life. Another interesting aspect of Tree’s trauma is the fact that she shares her birthday with her late mom. That is the very reason she is disinterested and unenthused on the day of her birthday. It just seems to be another day for Tree in her life, her flashy dress and makeup being the safeguard that she hides behind from all the scrutinizing eyes and whispering ears. Tree makes a point in not letting her ghosts from the past let her haunt in the present. The general outlook that you get looking at her is a young, confident, and slightly inverted woman, who’s mature beyond her age. The dynamism in her personality is as far distanced and separated in the initial stages, as it inherently and naturally reflects in the later stages.
Talking about the conventional tropes of the genre and removing the film from the forlorn shadow of ‘Scream’, director Landon says: “Every slasher film opens up with the mean girl getting killed and the good girl living till the end. And I thought, how can I make the mean girl and the good girl the same person?”