‘Happy Death Day’ solid, clever picture

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This film was something of a diversion of expectations, and I must say that I enjoyed it far more than I expected to. Based on what was presented in the trailers, I walked into the theater expecting to see a dumb, straight-played slasher film, but what I actually saw was something quite different. This film unabashedly presents itself as a mixture between “Scream” and “Groundhog Day.” It’s a genre-bending film that plays as a genuine comedy and almost a parody of the slasher genre.

The film opens by chronicling the daily life of a superficial, narcissistic, and promiscuous college student. She belongs to a snotty sorority and spends her time sleeping with married professors and coasting through classes. Initially, she’s a pretty typical slasher “scream queen.” However, by living through the same day over and over again, she has the opportunity to grow as a person and resolve her personal shortcomings and fix the strained relationships that they cause. Through these experiences, she forges new and lasting relationships, breaks off destructive ones, and becomes an all-around better person. Can you see where I’m drawing the “Groundhog Day” connection?

To the film’s benefit, it does not play as a straight and superficial slasher movie; it instead develops interesting and dynamic characters and performs a few clever diversions of genre tropes. It breaks the slasher form by being an optimistic story of redemption and self-improvement, and I found that to be a rather refreshing decision.

Any issues I have with this film stem from its inability to follow its own rules. For instance, midway through the film, a plot device is introduced that is supposed to add a ticking clock element to the film, but after introducing it, the “ticking clock” is never referenced or acknowledged again. It seems to be an under thought mechanism of unnecessarily adding tension to the film. It doesn’t detract much from the film or its protagonist’s character development, but it does come across as a cheap trick.

Despite its shortcomings, “Happy Death Day” is a solid and, at times, clever picture that I had fun watching. It might make for a fun Halloween or date night flick.