There are 12 Friday the 13th movies, nine A Nightmare on Elm Street films, and 10 terror tales in the franchise Halloween, not counting Blumhouse’s upcoming reboot. In short, loving horror can be something akin to Groundhog Day, the late Harold Ramis’ 1993 comedy, in which Bill Murray is forced to live the titular date over and over again. It makes sense then that Blumhouse has also backed Happy Death Day, which essentially takes that film’s template and adds a slasher twist.
Jessica Rothe stars as Tree, a college mean girl who wakes up on her birthday, hungover and regretful, in the dorm room of a one-night stand (Israel Broussard). Tree’s day doesn’t really improve from that point on and ends with her being murdered by a masked killer. Major spoiler, right? No! Because Tree then wakes up again, on the morning of the very same birthday, only to have the same rotten stretch of hours culminate in a similarly sorry end. Then she wakes up again on the morning of her birthday, only to — you get the picture. Who is the murderer? Well, to reveal that would be a spoiler. Let’s just say that, thanks to Tree’s personal history, there is an Agatha Christie-esque list of candidates, which includes a snubbed suitor, the wife of a professor who may have been teaching her a few non-curriculum tricks, and pretty much everyone else she has ever met.
Happy Death Day is directed with vim, vigor, and heart by Christopher Landon (Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse), and boasts a winning central performance from Rothe. If the result may not destined for Groundhog Day-style classic status it is a huge amount of fun. Your writer, for one, would gladly watch it again — just not tomorrow. B+