*. I had my hopes raised slightly for this one. It begins with a distant opening shot of a man with a butterfly net and some odd scoring in the background. Then we are introduced to an engaging young couple (Khan Baykal and Aya Cash) who are leaving the city to spend some quiet time at a semi-rural bread-and-breakfast. En route we learn that their cellphones have lost reception, naturally. Sure it’s a clichéd set-up, but there’s nothing wrong with that.
*. The bread-and-breakfast, designated the Happy House, turns out to be a strange place, with something of the atmosphere of Cold Comfort Farm and an M. Night Shyamalam film. The hostess (Marceline Hugot) presents the couple with a list of rules whose violation will be met with some unspecified punishment. She makes delicious blueberry muffins with a secret ingredient. All of this is fun.
*. Unfortunately, The Happy House never really delivers, as a comedy, a horror, or a horror-comedy. Only halfway through the mystery of the bed-and-breakfast is quietly disposed of and an escaped serial killer is tossed into the mix, forcing the movie to settle down into a situation that is handled without any suspense or humour. For a movie like this to succeed, especially in the present day and age, it needed far faster and wittier dialogue or more signature notes in the direction. As it is, writer-director D. W. Young seems to have been infected by the geniality of his setting. A cozy thriller might have worked, but it’s not clear that’s the direction he really wanted to go in.
*. Still, given its generally amiable atmosphere and likeable stars The Happy House is an enjoyably quiet film in a genre not known for its silences or sense of restraint. Given that it sets out to be a satire of sorts on horror clichés (itself nothing new), there were, however, real limits as to how different it could be.