Happy Death Day 2U–A genre-bending sequel as good-or better-than the original

Review by C.J. Bunce

Not many sequels match the original.  One of those rare gems is Happy Death Day 2U, an impressive, hilarious, amped-up horror meets sci-fi version of the original horror comedy featuring one of our favorite tropes: time loops.  The first look audiences had of a sequel to the October 2017 surprise hit Happy Death Day was the trailer in front of the 40th anniversary screening of Halloween in October 2018, receiving overwhelming positive feedback.  Director Christopher Landon’s 2019 sequel is so well-written, so well-acted by star Jessica Rothe, it may be better than the original, and it’s good enough to warrant an ongoing horror franchise on the scale of the Final Destination series.  The movie revisits Teresa “Tree” Gelbman, a strong, quick-thinking college student who keeps waking up to the same day, learning she must save not only herself but her friends from a freakish masked killer.  Yes, Happy Death Day 2U is Tru Calling meets Groundhog Day, but this time it suggests why the events of the first film happened, with the addition of some of clever sci-fi in the vein of Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle.

In the first film, Rothe’s character Tree is that brand of unlikable college student that engenders little sympathy.  But over the course of Happy Death Day, viewers can’t help but empathize with her absurd, painful, frustrating plight, and by the end, love her and cheer her on.  With Happy Death Day 2U that means more awesomely hilarious death montages, more new reactions by Rothe, more clever cinematography feats in re-creating scenes from the first film in different ways.  It’s also less violence, less gory horror, and more sci-fi, more college relationship humor, and more fun.  Rothe is brilliant, her performance is seamless.  Why isn’t she starring in more movies?

Tree again is a survivor, the ultimate survivor like the cheerleader in Heroes or vampire slayer extraordinaire Buffy Summers.  This time as she revisits those friends she only technically just met, she learns that one, Ryan, played again by Phi Vu (Logan, Pitch Perfect 2), has been working on a science project involving breaching the multiverse via a powerful machine he built with series newcomers Dre (Sarah Yarkin) and Samar (Suraj Sharma).  Adding further angst for Tree is learning in this new timeline/dimension/universe that the guy whose bed she keeps waking up in, Israel Broussard’s Carter Davis (Extinction, Fear the Walking Dead), is dating Tree’s decidedly bitchy sorority sister, Danielle.  Rachel Matthews (Batwoman, Frozen 2) returns to expand her character into even more vile, quirky, laugh-out-loud directions.

Really it’s all a showcase for Rothe, who appears to be able to tackle any kind of situation writer Christopher Landon can throw her into.  Not merely another slasher queen aka murder victim on the big screen, she’s a ballsy superheroine who can even learn the intricacies of high-level physics to save the day.

In another year lacking in good movies, now’s the time to catch something great that you might have missed.  Happy Death Day 2U is for anyone needing a laugh, whether you prefer horror, sci-fi, or comedy.  Catch it now here at Amazon on Blu-Ray or rent or buy it on Vudu, along with the original Happy Death Day.

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