HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U review by Patrick Hendrickson – Groundhog Day-esque horror goes hi-tech

HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U review by Patrick Hendrickson – Groundhog Day-esque horror goes hi-tech

HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U is the sequel to the 2015 slasher film HAPPY DEATH DAY, which bravely chooses to satirize and mock its forebear. A much-appreciated recap is given about the events from the first film. Tree (Jessica Rothe) is a college student who was originally stuck in a time-loop which was only broken once she saved herself from being murdered by her friend Lori (Ruby Modine) and a serial killer named Tombs (Rob Mello). This film starts with Tree’s fellow student Ryan (Phi Vu) being trapped in a similar loop which must be broken.

The time-loop is finally explained as resulting from Ryan’s thesis project which is some sort of device designed to demonstrate the existence of a multiverse. The techno-babble is almost as strong as the comedy in this movie and thankfully is played for laughs. A lot of things happen in the first act of this production, but to summarize (without spoiling too much), Tree ends up back in the same loop from the first movie with the added issue that she is now also trapped in an alternate dimension. In this alternate dimension, Tree’s boyfriend Carter (Israel Broussard) is dating another girl, her dead mother is still alive, and Lori is no longer out to kill her. However, there IS still a killer stalking Tree and the others, so a new mystery gets underway. The slasher story mostly takes a backseat to the sci-fi elements of Tree trying to get back home.

Tree’s characterization has an almost perfect balance of snark and genuine heart. She would be a risky character to have in the lead because Tree would not be nearly as likable or engaging if this mix was even slightly off. If this character was a touch more snarky or cynical then she would be off-putting and if she was a little more saccharine then she might start to feel cliche. Jessica Rothe deserves high-praise as do the writers of this production. Ryan is played by Phi Vu who does a similarly good job in holding the story together during the earliest portions of the film’s runtime, before focus is shifted back onto Tree. Broussard and Rothe have an adorable chemistry which punctuates the dilemma facing our leading lady. This dilemma being whether she should stay in this dimension with her still-alive mother or go back home where she can be with Carter. This choice is what serves as the emotional backdrop of everything and it starts to become genuinely heart-wrenching to watch Tree come to terms with the decision she must make.

There is an elegance to this production which should not go un-lauded. That elegance exists in its juggling of absurdist comedy and emotional development. It is not an easy thing to manage both of these elements, but HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U does so excellently. Furthermore, the fact that this production does not take itself seriously in the slightest is a very welcome thing. This sequel definitely is not a scary movie, but it thankfully is not trying to be. It is rather a delightfully fun romp that takes the satirical approach to its predecessor whilst also capitalizing on numerous aspects of the prior film. This is a sequel that uses its heritage as a jumping off point as opposed to a sequel that wallows in its origins. HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U earns a 4/5.

And here’s a better trailer, a little longer and (in our opinion) better edited:

HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U opens February 13, 2019

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