HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U
Starring: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Phi Vu, Suraj Sharma, Sarah Yarkin, Rachel Matthews, and Steve Zissis
Written by: Christopher Landon
Based on Characters Created by: Scott Lobdell
Directed by: Christopher Landon
Melding genres in films is always a tricky business. But Happy Death Day 2U makes it look goddamn easy as it shifts into full-tilt science fiction in a rollicking second installment. Written and directed by Christopher Landon and starring the whole freaking gang from the first movie, plus a super game Steve Zissis (HBO’s Togetherness and TRUtv’s I’m Sorry), this sophomore effort from the hot new horror franchise on the block is a blast and a half, taking the novel premise of the first movie and exploding it across the multiverse to deliver shocks, laughs, and a bloody good time from start to finish.
When we last saw the plucky Tree Gelbman, she thought her Groundhog Day-meets-Happy Birthday to Me inspired time looping nightmare was over and she was free to start her life over and move forward with her relationship with Carter. But thanks to an unfortunately timed quantum physics experiment that was set to take place the VERY SAME DAY she got looped, spearheaded by Carter’s hapless roommate Ryan (a truly hilarious Phi Vu), she is transported to a WHOLE OTHER REALITY and looped AGAIN, caught in a sort of Mirror Universe of her own life where she must die and die again to break the loop and return to her prime reality.
Like, I know, holy shit, right? But the way Landon’s script walks the audience through the concept, hilariously brought to life by the cast who gel into a really fun ensemble this time around, is an absolute blast and never once gets too heavy-handed or hard to follow. I know the first installment could technically be considered sci-fi because of the time looping angle, but I would be hard-pressed to think of another horror movie that just fully transitioned into science fiction. Let alone this effortlessly and having this much fun doing it.
Because when I say that Happy Death Day 2U is fun, dear readers, holy shit, do I mean this thing is FUN. Anchored by rising star Jessica Rothe, whose Tree is quickly become one of my favorite Horror Heroines of all fucking time, Happy Death Day 2U doesn’t just ramp up its concepts; it ramps up the comedy and character moments, putting Tree on another emotional thrill ride of growth as she fights to return to her reality, save her friends, and defeat a BRAND NEW Babyface through another series of impeccably directed sequences of her dying spiked with genuine slasher thrills. I really cannot speak highly enough of Rothe’s performance here. While the script does give her a lot to do, I cannot imagine Tree being played by anyone else other than Rothe as she just delivers in scene after scene.
Although Tree is the clear lead, Happy Death Day 2U balloons her friend group outward into the Physics Department, expanding Vu’s role as Ryan and introducing Suraj Sharma and Sarah Yarkin into the mix as his partners in quantum physics. A lot of the main expository scenes and narrative heavy-lifting are spent with the new characters, and they all very much rise to the occasion, making this section of the movie feel like a genuine, heartfelt college comedy (so that’s THREE genres this damn thing manages to do!) as they help Tree master the equation to trigger her return home. Israel Broussard’s Carter is also back and displays a genuine charm and chemistry with Rothe, with the added complication that in this new reality, Carter is dating Tree’s best frienemy Danielle (Rachel Matthews). This adds a neat wrinkle to their time-tossed romance from the first one and also allows Matthews to engage in some truly talented comedic acting, playing a completely flipped version of the Alpha Sorority Queen she sank her teeth into in the first one. TV’s Steve Zissis also pops in and out of the narrative, playing the constantly put-upon Dean of their college, and he plays it all hilariously straight, acting almost like the Walter Peck from Ghostbusters of this movie.
In short, if you liked the first one and live for a little genre-bending dark comedy (with more than a bit of heart), then Happy Death Day 2U is the movie for you. Time will tell just how much mileage we as fans can get out of these (I’ve already heard rumblings of a third one which make me *Emoji Eyes*), but for now, this newest hit for Blumhouse and Christopher Landon is a massively fun time at the movies and would be a worthy addition to any shelf once it hits blu-ray.