By JAMIE BERARDI
If you relived the same day over again, would that teach you something about yourself? Blumhouse’s surprise sleeper hit Happy Death Day sure seems to think so. Made on a modest budget of $4 million, the smart and self-referential horror-comedy has already raked in $88 million at the worldwide box office.
The story follows Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe), a college student who awakens on the morning of her birthday in the dorm room of campus nerd Carter Davis (Israel Broussard) with a wicked hangover. After rejecting Carter’s advances, Tree carries on her day in her typical self-centered fashion: bullying fellow classmates, ignoring her father’s invite to lunch, throwing out a birthday cupcake given by her roommate Lori (Ruby Modine) and continuing an illicit affair with her hunky yet douchey professor Gregory Butler (Charles Aitken).
On her way to a party that night, Tree is murdered by a hooded figure wearing a mask of the college mascot, but – Groundhog Day style – awakens the next morning in Carter’s dorm room to repeat her day. Doomed to relive (re-die?) her birthday murder until she can solve it, Tree races against the clock to find answers as her physical and mental strength deteriorates.
While Happy Death Day’s plot might seem like a repetitive bore, the film manages to keep the concept fresh, fun and wildly entertaining, emphasizing the humorous aspects of Tree’s outlandish predicaments and the heartwarming story of a narcissist learning how to not be a jerk in the harshest way possible. The film’s narrative is self-aware and knows when to cut the laughs in favor of the scares, which abound in the form of unique and inventive kills, each more brutal than the last. Happy Death Day doesn’t do much to explain Tree’s time-loop predicament but, in the end, you’ll be having too much fun to care.