It’s always a risky proposition to
stick more than one genre into a blender and expect something good to come out at the end. Two genres?
Easy done. A pinnacle of the ‘two-genre’ fare is the horror-comedy category, a
tightrope blend of shocks and laughs – think Scream or American Werewolf
in London. But, throw a third genre into the mix and you’re on very, very
shaky ground. Enter stage left, Happy
Death Day 2U – sequel to the highly successful Blumhouse original film Happy Death Day and bringer of third
genre, science-fiction to the already joined pairing of horror and comedy. Christopher
Landon returns to flex his directing knuckles and give this triple whammy a
Returning to the mix is scream princess Jessica Rothe as
Tree Gelbman (a character who gives Final
Destination’s Clear Rivers a run for their money with absurd names), the
unfortunate soul who had to live a repetitive cycle of being murdered every day
until she broke the loop and discovered who her killer was. While she thought
the crime had been solved in the first film, Ryan Phan’s (Phi Vu) student
quantum physics scientist and his cohorts appear to accidentally drag her back
into the loop of living in the world’s worst version of Groundhog Day ever via their experimental quantum reactor. This
reactor – named the ‘Sisyphus device’ – causes more than electrical blackouts;
it appears to be the cause of the time loop that keeps Tree living the day of
her death over and over. Having already had her fill of dying violently, Tree
forces Ryan to help restore her natural timeline, and bring order back to her
On the surface, there is a lot going on in Happy Death Day 2U. Initially, it
plunges head first into a world of science fiction, overwhelming you with
multiple timelines and duplicate universes. Fortunately, you’re not expected to
take notes, and before too long the plot kicks into gear as Tree works through
frustrations of being back in a traumatic world of endless death cycles. The
challenge presented to Jessica Rothe is that she not only has to work through
Tree’s frustrations of reliving her death over and over, but also that she has
to do so while grappling with the realisation that the world she is trying to
escape from has her mother alive, all the while, delivering one heck of a
I know a lot of praise is heaped on Toni Collette’s notable
performance in Hereditary, but this
masterful performance from Jessica Rothe deserves similar praise. Her ability
to exhibit fear, disgust, heartbreak and apathy all at once is truly brilliant
and reason for admission alone. Notably, as the climax of the film rolls around
and Tree is presented with a genuine dilemma, the anguish Rothe at having to
decide which path she should take is relatable and appreciated for how it
installs a much needed heart into the mix of this genre fare.
Unfortunately, while Rothe is superb as Tree, the supporting
cast is less than stellar with Suraj Sharma’s Samar Ghosh getting the worst
treatment as he’s reduced to a woman ogling geek. Sharma was great in Life of Pi, so it is nice to see him
working again, it’d just be nice if his character was a little less of a dick.
Initially, Phi Vu’s Ryan appears to be the lead this time round, but he quickly
shifts into the background as Tree’s narrative takes over. It’d be nice if he
were given a bit more central focus, but this is Tree’s story, so to the back
of the class Ryan must go.
The other minor complaint is that the plot does feel a
little too frenetic to hold onto at times. It’s still exciting, but those three
competing genres don’t always mesh well enough. Where the comedy shines, the
horror is diminished, with fewer frights than expected. The sci-fi aspect is
there, but dealt with in a mostly hand-wavy manner where you can almost hear
Christopher Landon say, don’t worry about all this, it’s not important.
At the end of the day, Happy
Death Day 2U is a good, entertaining time at the movies. A solid
performance from Jessica Rothe centres this mildly manic genre flick. Most
importantly, this solid film is another reminder that Blumhouse Productions is
quite easily the finest genre-house working today, with an output that will
likely rival the great Hammer Film Productions.
Director: Christopher Landon Cast: Jessia Rothe, Phi Vu, Suraj Sharma Writer: Christopher Landon, (Based on characters by Scott Lobdell)
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