The uncanny ability of Blumhouse Productions to produce cheaply made horror movies that dominate the box office continues with Happy Death Day, another high-concept thriller that sees a young college student forced to relive the same day over and over, one that begins with her waking in an unfamiliar dorm room after a one night stand and ends with her death at the hands of a creepily masked killer. Blumhouse are one of the more consistently entertaining studios for horror, from the Paranormal Activity series to this year’s critically adored and box office destroying Get Out, and this is no exception.
A horror twist on the Groundhog Day formula, it’s fuelled by a brilliantly self-aware tone that veers from over the top gorefest to hilarious self-parody. What starts out as a mildly scary slasher flick quickly morphs into a ridiculously enjoyable whodunit, with Jessica Rothe’s Tree piecing together the clues to her killer’s identity all while being forced to live through her own deaths in increasingly gruesome, elaborate ways. Rothe carries the entire film, comfortably moving from obnoxious sorority queen to kick-ass investigator with every death scene she’s forced to endure. She’s matched by Israel Broussard as Carter, the confused, nerdy love interest she’s forced to wake up to each morning.
The ending is almost too smug for its own good, but by that point director Christopher B. Landon has all but abandoned any genuine scares and embraced the absurd premise entirely. It’s filled with great little touches, from the charming repetitive jokes sprinkled through each new day to the film’s most inspired creation – the exceptionally designed baby face mask of the killer himself. It’s never all that terrifying or entirely funny and not a classic by any means, but has a light, strangely uplifting outlook that is undeniably refreshing. Happy Death Day is unabashed B-grade fun.