Genre-bending Happy Death Day 2U proves there can be plenty of fun, romance in a serial killer thriller
By Tabari McCoy
|“Wait a minute … Didn’t this happen the last time I starred in this movie?!” Tree (Jessica Rothe) experiences deja vú in a scene from HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U. Credit: Universal Pictures © 2019 Universal Studios.|
WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:
DIRECTOR(S): Christopher Landon
Or so she thought.
For you see, Happy Death Day 2U begins with Ryan (Phi Vu) dying at the hands of a baby-faced killer. And then he wakes up in his garbage-filled car, only to get back to his room where he catches Tree and Carter about to … embrace. And once he starts describing what happened to him, Tree quickly realizes much to her horror what is happening: The loop has started all over again, only this time it’s affecting Ryan. Thus, you can imagine her shock, horror and anger when she discovers both loops were inadvertently created by Ryan and his fellow science students Samar (Suraj Sharma) and Dre (Sarah Yarkin) due to a time-altering device they’ve nicknamed “Sissy.”
And that’s when things get REALLY weird – I’d say more, but it would ruin all the surprises. But if there’s one last thing Tree is looking for, it’s surprises; unfortunately for her, there are plenty of surprises on the way that is going to alter her reality in ways she never, ever envisioned in this dimension – or any others for that matter.
Boasting a keen sense of self-awareness and a wicked-funny yet strong performance by Rothe, Happy Death Day 2U does the thing that is extremely rare with movies rooted in a horror/thriller mold: Not only live up to the original, but surpass it. Whereas the original Happy Death Day felt like a silly-yet-enjoyable one-off, 2U provides a back story that expands its characters growth without losing any of its predecessor’s charm. Of course, that is due largely to Rothe’s ability to make her Groundhog Day-like existence consistently intriguing while making you root for her as her quest continues. It’s almost like writer/director Christopher Landon and the rest of the Blumhouse team (the production company responsible for hits like Paranormal Activity, Insidious, Get Out and the most recent Halloween remake/sequel/way to keep making money off that franchise) found out about Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and said “How could we make a movie like that with a killer and keep all the humor?”
To her credit, Rothe does something rarely seen in horror-esque movies: Act. Like really, really act. She makes Tree equal parts crazy yet determined, hilarious yet not a caricature while at the same time using her skills to help make fun of and show reverence for the very genre that may make her a star. Playing well off of her co-stars Vu and Broussard, 2U is Rothe’s show the way the Golden State Warriors are Seth Curry’s team (at least, pre-Kevin Durant). And while the movie – which does have its fair share of “Ok, that’s corny even for this movie” moments and it is kinda easy to figure out who’s behind the mask if you pay a lick of attention – isn’t perfect, it’s got a great mix of comedy, thrills and irreverence to prove itself worthy of being a sequel.
In fact, given that it’s releasing just in time for Valentine’s Day, Happy Death Day 2U might just be the most romantic way to show your significant other you really love them … By watching a film breathe new life into a genre that can always use some.