The Scariest Part of "Happy Death Day" Was Not the Gore

**Spoilers Ahead**

I know what you’re thinking. You’ve seen the trailer for “Happy Death Day.” You think it is just another mainstream, co-ed horror movie. You’ll have the usual gore, the seemingly stupid, sorority girl screaming as she runs into a trap, and, of course, a happy ending where she gets the guy. Yes. All of this happens, but there is more.

On the surface, this film is about a sorority girl, Tree, who is murdered on her birthday by a mysterious figure hiding beneath the mask of her college mascot (sure to give you nightmares). She relives the day she dies until she finally figures out who is killing her and escapes death.

Now, just stick with me. I would argue that this film is not just about Tree dying day after day. This film tackles a larger social issue:

The way in which women tear down other women and how this becomes a form of violence.

It deals with the way in which women are dependent upon each other's criticism and competition in order to determine their own value and worth.  

Let me prove it to you. Tree is a not so nice person when the movie starts.She spits on Uber drivers, she is rude to her friends, and she doesn’t care about how her actions affect others. There are so many possibilities for who could be killing Tree. Many of them, men whom she had slighted. In fact, as an audience member, you probably assume that her killer will be male. At one point, both Tree and the audience think they have it figured out. It seems obvious that she is being killed by an escaped serial killer who murdered young women. It seemed too neatly wrapped up, but what else can you expect from a mainstream horror film? In the end, though, it is her best friend and roommate, Lori, who is responsible. You may think that Tree had done something terrible to Lori to make this happen. In actuality, there is only one reason which Lori cites for killing her friend:

They were sleeping with the same man.

Lori calls Tree a slut and says that she felt like she was in competition with her for this man’s attention. Tree was shocked, as was the audience, that this was her only motivation. We are meant to feel this shock on purpose. We expect for Tree to be killed by some big, scary man who is crazy and kills to kill. However, that outcome is not indicative of reality. This is a physical manifestation of the cycle of violence which women inflict upon each other everyday. This manifests in words shared between Lori and Tree:

Lori: “How did you know it was me?”

Tree: “Because you’ve killed me before.”

Lori: “Well, I guess I’ll just have to kill you again.”

Women are constantly trying to “kill” each other. The way Tree repeats this day over and over represents the ways in which women expect violence to come from other women. The film also deals with the ways in which this female to female violence perpetuates male violence against women. Lori sets the serial killer free so that he can chase after Tree and be framed for her murder. Lori’s intent to harm Tree instigates the continuation of male violence against the female body.

The sub-plots also support my theory. Tree is dependent upon female validation. Her mother died a few years earlier and, therefore, she cannot form a relationship with her father and becomes an atypically “bad” person. The film is saying that women look for the opinions and strength of other women to find their own identity. Without female positivity, you end up becoming a lesser person. Tree is also constantly trading aggressions (both micro and not so micro) with her sorority sister, Danielle. Danielle is not sex-positive, body-positive, or just generally human positive, to put it bluntly. Danielle tears Tree down for having casual sex and tears her fellow sisters down for eating whatever they want. Both Tree and Danielle compare their sexual escapades in order to prove who is less of a “slut.” Danielle is not just a person;she is a physical manifestation of the everyday violences that women commit against each other. She magnifies them.

“Happy Death Day” is a feminist doctrine. You might say I’m going too far, but I don’t think so. This film puts in front of our faces the very ugly truth of female to female interactions in our modern age. It plays off of horror movie tropes and our expectations of societal roles in order to prove its point. Women measure their worth against each other, rather than building each other up. This is a sad truth we needed to confront, and this film helps us do it. The film is also sex-positive, consent-positive, body-positive, and pro-female empowerment.

If you haven’t seen “Happy Death Day” already, go see it!