I never thought I’d watch Happy Death Day for the simple reason that I’m not that into horror films… and to be honest, I still haven’t. I meant to sit down and watch the whole thing for today, but I am a complete wimp and couldn’t bring myself to do it. So I went off the pieces I’ve already seen and plot summaries to break it down. This is totally cheating, I know! But remember that most movies follow the same structure (regardless of what vocabulary you use to describe it!) so it wasn’t hard to figure out how to break this one down based on the summary.
I remember when the trailer for this film came out it felt very fresh and a fun new way into horrors that I’m glad has continued. I still need to see Ready or Not and Freaky, which both look really fun and like something I could handle. That’s more true for Ready or Not since it’s an isolated comedy-horror, which is more my style. Freaky has a great trailer but it’s still a serial killer and I’m such a baby I don’t know if I can handle it. We’ll see. Until then… enjoy this breakdown of the horror time loop feature, Happy Death Day!
Protagonist: Theresa “Tree” Gelbman
Want: End the loop by figuring out who her killer is
Need: Be considerate of other people
Antagonist: The Murderer
Pre-Existing Life: Tree wakes up in Carter’s bed on her birthday. She dismisses him and ignores a call from her dad. She visits a professor she’s having an affair with. She returns to her sorority house where she tosses a cupcake from Lori in the garbage. On the way to a party, she is lured into a tunnel and murdered.
Inciting Incident: Tree wakes up in Carter’s bed and the day repeats. She avoids the tunnel but the killer follows her to the party and kills her.
Plot Push / First Act Decision: Tree locks herself up but the killer is in the house and gets her anyway. She tells Carter about the loop and he suggests to end it she identify the killer.
Reversal: Tree follows a bunch of different people she suspects of killing her and dies repeatedly. She ends up in the hospital and it turns out that remnants of injuries from her previous deaths are not leaving. Her body is becoming more damaged the more she dies.
Midpoint: Tree opens up to Carter about her self-loathing and poor relationship with her father.
Reversal #2: The news reports there’s a serial killer at the hospital. Tree believes that’s the murderer. She goes to get him, Tombs, and the murderer kills Carter. To save Carter, Tree hangs herself so the day will reset.
False Climax / Low Point: Believing she knows now who the killer is, Tree happily goes through her day. She ends her affair, has lunch with her dad, and kills Tombs. She has a cupcake from Lori only for the day to reset again… she died in her sleep.
Plot Push / Third Act Decision: Tree plans to run away when Lori offers her the cupcake again. Tree realizes that Lori is the killer.
Climax: Tree threatens to take the poisoned cupcake to the police. Lori reveals she was also sleeping with the professor. Tree stuffs the cupcake in Lori’s face and kicks her out a second-story window.
Resolution: Tree goes to dinner with Carter. She wakes at his place thinking the day is repeating again but he’s just messing with her. They kiss.