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Happy Death Day 2U is a wonderful example of how to take what seemed like a predictable slasher sequel and turning it on its head into something truly unique. The twists and turns I endured during the screening caught me off guard for sure, but every time they occurred I couldn’t help but feel impressed that I didn’t see the wackiness coming.
Chris Landon returns to direct Happy Death Day 2U, the director’s third mainstream horror film, and to be perfectly honest, Happy Death Day 2U is confirmation of not only progress in his directing style but also represents his best work to date. Crossing together a world of horror and sci-fi, Landon has created a one of a kind slasher that knows how to parody its original self. While the horror may be severely lacking, it’s easy to disregard due to the astonishing level of finesse the film has when dealing with time travel and literally going, in a manner of speaking, balls to the walls with its content. While expanding upon the world of the original Happy Death Day and bringing more depth to several characters we didn’t know too much about the first go ‘round, Happy Death Day 2U is both a love letter to fans of the first and a f**k you at the same time, which in my eyes was endearing of the screenwriter/director to take the risk of transitioning into what no one could have expected - complete camp.
Chris Landon takes over writing duties from original scribe Scott Lobdell and in doing so takes the original concept that was jokingly well received and turning it inside out. What you expect is not what you get. It’s not an ordinary slasher film, as it’s a time traveling, multi universe, time loop slasher film with so many twists and turns that it’s hard to count them all - yet somehow Landon’s writing holds it all together. With some extremely fun and over the top death scenes, and some intriguing sci-fi time travel elements, you don’t really mind that the slasher mystery is placed on the after burner. A minor complaint I have is with a scene occurring near the close of the feature with Danielle pretending to be a blind French woman to distract the villainous Dean of the university. This scene is pure slapstick and doesn’t quite flow with the remainder of the feature - it’s a tolerable scene, but it noticeably stands out as the awkward filler to the next plot point. The film is brilliantly written, both parodying multiple genres, itself, and creating something new as well as refreshing at the same time.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
While I would have preferred a bit more of the Baby Face killer, the actors surrounding the few scenes with him/her are excellent. The entire cast returns for this second outing, lead by the stunning Jessica Rothe, who takes on the role of Tree with ease as though she never left the character behind. Carter, played by Israel Broussard, was my absolute favorite character in the original film, however his quirky movie trivia/nice guy persona has altered slightly and drifted much more into the backdrop than previously. What we do get instead of a much more prominent Carter is the expansion upon two side characters which had a dismissible yet memorable character trait in the first film. Now drafted to the front, it’s lucky that Ryan, played by Phi Vu, is as entertaining as he is an idiot outside the lab, but a genius within the correct elements. It’s a shame however that the second character pushed to the forefront and potentially the lead in a third film if ever made is Danielle, played by Rachel Matthews, who similar to in the first, is an annoying character. Several new characters, such as the lab friends of Ryan are entertaining enough and the reintroduction of several crucial components of Tree’s personality in the first Happy Death Day make it a surprising film - especially when universes and timelines are altered. All in all a good round up of performances and a great one from Jessica Rothe, who out of thin air provoked the audience to tear up at her decision of a lifetime, whether in a loop or not.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Referencing at one point in the film, Back to the Future Part II, Happy Death Day 2U steals an aspect that is so iconic to the Back to the Future trilogy that it builds charm as to what they are doing. Score cues and the score in general take great inspiration from the Back to the Future series, along with reusing and improving the originals’ score. As the day repeats over and over, the noises gain a tedious nature, but when things are slightly altered they stick out like a sore thumb in this Groundhog Day / Scream sequel. There’s a lot to love here, including the fun and interesting way Director Christopher Landon uses the Paramore song, “Hard Times” - one of the more sinister yet humorous montages I’ve ever witnessed.
Made on a minimal budget, similar to most Blumhouse Productions, it’s really unbelievable what Landon and the effects team have managed to accomplish. From the murders, to the wonderful shot of the main character Tree falling from a building and landing into Carter’s bed, to the device that the newly established scientist Ryan has built to alter dimensions, as well as time. The effects are stunning and never show any sign of a lack in budget.
Happy Death Day 2U is a rare example of a horror sequel working to its full potential, which is something that most other horror franchises can’t say. While, sure, a straight forward slasher sequel would have been fun, the time looping aspect along with all the timey-wimey goodness makes for a much more memorable experience that truly shines in its wicked sense of humor and parody of its own film.