Due to the unexpected success of the original 2017’s ‘Happy Death Day’ outing the cheekily fun and frolicking fright farce was tasty frosting on the cutthroat cake. Crafty, creepy and oddly clever director Christopher Landon’s menacing romp was refreshingly twisted in its off-kilter skin.
In fast forwarding to 2019’s sequel ‘Happy Death Day 2U’, Landon is back at the helm trying to recapture the macabre magic with the strained yet giddy sequel. Unfortunately, ‘Happy Death Day 2U’ does not have the endearing and inspired mockery of its predecessor. Nevertheless, this horrific hoot still registers with tangy, naughty aplomb.
Those familiar with the previous installment labeled ‘Happy Death Day’ as a slasher version of ‘Groundhog’s Day’ meets ‘Scream’. surprisingly, the edgy-minded energy was spot-on and the solid performances led by star Jessica Rothe was a spirited revelation. Clearly, there was no doubt that Rothe and her cautious cohorts would be back for more unruly shenanigans. Landon’s follow-up has more of a SF presence involving time-looping procedures and mind-bending experimentation.
After Tree Gelbman (Rothe) successfully unmasked the pesky mask-covered baby-faced killer in the first film she finds herself in a repetitive cycle of day-to-day repeats regarding the same harried and horrific rituals. Tree and Carter (Israel Broussard) are happily together in the aftermath of the killer’s discovery. However, Carter’s roommate Ryan Phan (Phi Vu) figures into the mix when his science experiment goes awry.
Thus, things become screwy at Bayfield University for everyone involved. Now Tree must endure the uncontrollable time-looping where alternative realities exist and mess with order of things. The golden question remains: can the beleaguered Tree overcome the campus chaos concerning the mysterious blackouts and the reappearance of the masked baby-faced executioner?
Basically, Tree must contend with her topsy-turvy circumstances at large. As Ryan and company try to undo the cursed damage the situation gets mighty complicated and precarious for the collegiate cutie. As a result of the constant tampering to rectify the normalcy of the vulnerable school grounds, poor Tree is weakened and exposed by the recurring deaths she has undergone time after time. The time loop has her flustered and feared by the scientific stand-off not corrected by resourceful Brainiac Ryan and others.
In the meantime, Tree must deal with the tricky task of convincing the strangers in the alternate reality bubble to assist her as much as possible if she ever wants to return to her proper realm of existence. It is very challenging and discouraging to float around in a warped world that plays with your psyche for the jeopardised Tree, particularly when her boyfriend Carter does not even recognise or acknowledge their intimacy for one another.
To strategically find ways to create your own death just to ensure the safety of loved ones on the other side definitely takes its exhausting toll for the jittery heroine. It is a nightmarish rerun of havoc and harm for Tree but chilling child’s play for the one-tooth masked misfit having an ole grand, gruesome time.
Landon assumes the double duty of directing and writing (original screenwriter Scott Lobdell is missing in action this time around) the second serving of ‘Happy Death Day 2U’. Again, Landon’s goosebump gem does not quite fit the celebrated whimsy of the first edition bursting with flourished wit and wackiness. Still, the concerted effort to instil a splashy mishmash of horror tics combined with ambitious SF-flavored topical themes of quantum physics and head-scratching hedonism courtesy of the film’s masked baddie all makes for a fruitful session of shadowy confusion.
Again, Rothe’s Tree Gelbman is the heralded glue that holds together the manic mockery that persists. Landon’s storytelling occasionally remains labored in certain spots but the high-minded conception of world-jumping tactics actually gives ‘Happy Death Day 2U’ its own sense of off-beat charm and imagination.
Hence, feel free to relive over the repeated raucousness of ‘Happy Death Day 2U’s staged chicanery–with or without a masked chubby-faced baby butcher looking over your shifty shoulder.
Happy Death Day 2U.
Starring: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Phi Vu, Ruby Modine and Suraj Sharma.
Directed and Written by: Christopher Landon.
Genre: Horror/Science Fiction.
Critic’s rating: ** 1/2 stars (out of 4 stars).
(c) Frank Ochieng 2019