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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Feb 18, 2019

Movie Review: Happy Death Day 2U - Starts As A Horror/ Slasher Film Then Turns Into A Sci Fi Movie

WHEN ‘HAPPY Death Day’ was shown in 2017, it was surprise hit as it was made for less than $5 million but earned $125 million at the worldwide box office. So it’s not surprising that it now has a sequel, “Happy Death Day 2U”. The movie uses the time loop premise of “Groundhog Day” where things keep on happening over and over again, then added a slasher twist ala-”Scream” and “Halloween”.

It was done with a lot of shameless but witty style and a quirky sense of dark humor that underlines the absurdity of the entire enterprise with many blood and gore scenes and an amusing performance from a newbie actress, Jessica Rothe, who plays the lead role of Tree who gets to prevent her own murder.

The sequel again features Rothe as Tree. It’s meant to squeeze additional bucks from gullible viewers, who certainly won’t be disappointed because the sequel not only retains all the things that worked in the first movie but added some new wacky stuff that, even if you didn’t get to see the original, you will still have fun watching the goofy Part 2 where they once again do the same thing over and over and over again to show that sequels can actually work well.

In the original, Tree finds herself waking up from a nightmare showing her being killed on her birthday on the bed of Carter (Israel Broussard). This happens repeatedly until she figures out a way of how to stop the serial killer who is hiding beneath a baby face mask.

The sequel is once again helmed by Christopher Landon, who also wrote the script this time, taking over from the writer of the original, Scott Lobdell. This time, the role of Carter’s roommate, Ryan (Asian actor Phi Vu), who gets to deliver only one line in the first movie, is expanded.  He begins experiencing his own time loop where he has his own masked stalker and killer. This ends badly when his science project, a quantum reactor, is confiscated by their Dean, Bronson (Steve Zissis).

It will be revealed that Ryan’s invention was actually the one that caused Jessica’s deadly time loop in the first movie. Jessica is disappointed that her experience is actually just an accidental and not a special cosmic happening. Ryan then fires up his invention once again, thinking it will end his own time loop, but what happens is that it sends Jessica back into loop.

But things are now different in what can be a parallel universe. Carter is dating Jessica’s fellow sorority girl, the mean girl Danielle (Rachel Matthews). The killer in the first movie, Lori, is no longer trying to kill Jessica this time and her dead mother (Missy Yager) is shown to be still alive. This makes Jessica’s situation more complicated, with new problems thrown her way.

In one scene, when Ryan and his two dorky friends, Samas (Suraj Sharma) and Dre (Sarah Yarkin) try to  program the machine to send Jessica back home, it becomes her responsibility to memorize failed algorithms so that they can try a new one each day. She also has to commit suicide in various ways each time and get to re-set the events that will help combat the killer. This is presented like a hilarious little montage, music video style.

The sci-fi elements involving parallel dimensions and quantum meddling are actually more like “Back to the Future” and this is actually acknowledged in the new film, giving it the chance to re-stage familiar situations with new ribtickling results, pushing the hilarity further and further as writer-director Landon (who wrote the “Paranormal Activity” movies) keeps on referencing other horror flicks and reversing things with wild imagination and brazen abandon. After a while, the film becomes more a sci-fi film than a horror film.

A good reason why the movie works is because of Jessica Rothe’s commitment to her role as Tree and all the lunacy in the film. She shows a fairly credible understanding of her character’s range of emotions and convincingly pulls them off, from showing scream queen vulnerability to brave physical comedy that make you root for her. If this sequel would be a hit like the first movie, you can bet there will be a Part 3.