Happy Death Day 2U (2019)

22 Oct

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Smith’s Verdict: ***1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

Two years ago, “Happy Death Day” was a pleasant surprise—a slasher film that was actually good.

OK, that statement may seem mean, but the point is I had a lot of fun with the movie. And especially for an era when our best horror films tend to stray away from slasher-killers and moves more toward ideas and imagination, it’s refreshing to see a film about a slasher-killer written with ideas and imagination.

It was a success, and so a sequel was inevitable. Would it match its predecessor in any way, shape or form?

Yes. It. Would.

Brief recap: A college sorority girl, nicknamed Tree (Jessica Rothe), experiences a time-loop that causes her to repeat her birthday over and over again…and it’s also her death-day, as each time, she’s brutally slaughtered by a masked killer. Did I mention the killer wears a creepy baby mask? Believe it or not, that’s the campus mascot. She eventually solves the mystery of who the killer is and thus, she’s finally able to live and see tomorrow. It was the story of a total bitch who became a better person under unbelievable circumstances.

“Happy Death Day 2U,” the sequel, contains more of a sci-fi edge to it (though there are still some horror aspects left over—it is a Blumhouse production after all) and kind of reminds me of the zany, goofy fun of “Back to the Future Part II.” (And yes, that title is dropped here, just as “Groundhog Day” was in the previous film.) We get an explanation for the time-loop this time, and we’re also taken into a parallel dimension and reminded of the possibilities of a multiverse.

Tree is dying again and again…again. Why? Because, this time, she’s in another universe, in which her new boyfriend Carter (Israel Broussard) is now dating the bitchy sorority queen Danielle (Rachel Matthews), who seems nicer this time around, her roommate Lori (Ruby Modine), who turned out to be the killer in the previous film, is now Tree’s closest friend, and HER DEAD MOTHER IS ALIVE!!…oh, and that damned baby-masked killer is on the loose again. Poor Tree just can’t catch a break. But who is it this time?

A trio of science-student stereotypes—Ryan (Phi Vu, reprising his brief role from the original film as Carter’s roommate), Samar (Suraj Sharma), and Dre (Sarah Yarkin), thanking reminding us of “Real Genius” rather than “Revenge of the Nerds”—are responsible for the time-loop. You see, they’ve created a machine that is intended to slow time down. Instead, not only has it caused people (or maybe just Tree—I’m not really sure) to relive day after day but it also opened up a door to a parallel universe. So now, Tree, in the new world, has to convince the trio that their machine works so that they can create new algorithms in order to test the device again in order to send Tree back home, but it will take several tries, and so, Tree has to come back again with the previous equations memorized…meaning she has to die again and again (again, again) in order to convince them again in order to finally get it right.

Sounds confusing, but…OK, it is a little confusing—keep a notepad handy if you watch this one. You thought “BTTF Part II” was loaded with paradoxes? Whew!

Usually, I have a real beef against sequels that cause me to repeat the very things that characters have done in previous installments because…they are doing it…AGAIN. But thankfully, “Happy Death Day 2U” has every bit as much of a sharp script as its predecessor, with a lot of wit in a “Scream” sort of way and surprisingly, a great deal of heart.

I mean it, too. For as funny and creative and twisted as “Happy Death Day 2U” is, it can also be very heartwarming as well. As I mentioned, Tree’s mother (Missy Yager), who died in an accident on Tree’s birthday long ago in Tree’s universe, is alive in this universe. This gives Tree a hard choice to make, as she sees her as a reason not to go back. The character of Tree is able to grow some more this time around (hah! Tree? Grow? I get it.), and Jessica Rothe handles these scenes rather beautifully.

But of course, as with the first movie, her comedic moments are definitely on-point. She’s fantastic here.

Oh, right. We have the killer again. Did we really need him/her for this one? Eh, maybe not. But we expected the return.

The characters we’ve seen before are welcomed back and worth rooting for (and Carter in particular is one of the few horror-movie boyfriends I can tolerate), the mix of sci-fi, comedy, and horror is uniquely handled, and if there’s another sequel to be made with these capable hands (which also include writer/director Christopher Landon), I’ll be interested in seeing it. And I’ll surely watch “Happy Death Day 2U” as many times as I’ve watched “Happy Death Day.”

But that still doesn’t answer the question…what school has a baby for their mascot??

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