Happy Death Day 2U
Actress Jessica Rothe stars in writer-director Christopher Landon’s comedy-driven horror thriller sequel, ‘Happy Death Day 2U.’

Title: ‘Happy Death Day 2U’

Director: Christopher Landon (‘Happy Death Day,’ ‘Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse,‘ ‘Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones’

Starring: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Phi Vu, Suraj Sharma, Sarah Yarkin, Ruby Modine and Rachel Matthews

Dying over and over can sometimes be surprisingly easier to contend with than the dangers that lie ahead if a person remains alive in their original existence. That’s certainly the case for the strong and determined protagonist, who’s played by Jessica Rothe, in the new horror-thriller sequel, ‘Happy Death Day 2U.’

Like its predecessor, the surprise 2017 hit film, ‘Happy Death Day,’ the follow-up offers a riveting comic tone to its exploration of how having a brush with death can convince even the most conceited person, like Rothe’s heroine, Tree, to start an entirely new life, during which they’ll never repeat their old mistakes again. But the sequel, which was directed by returning series helmer, Christopher Landon, further explores the powerful message that a reformed protagoinst can truly become a remarkable leader in bringing about change in the most difficult situations, no matter how many times they have to reinvent themselves in the process.

‘Happy Death Day 2U,’ which Universal Pictures is releasing tomorrow in theaters, picks up the morning after the ending of Tree’s time loop, as she finally starts her romance with Carter (Israel Broussard). However, their happiness is short-lived, as his roommate, Ryan (Phi Vu), soon realizes that he’s now trapped in a time loop of his own. Ryan, who’s a science major, is happy to discover that the machine he’s building with his lab partners, Samar (Suraj Sharma) and Dre (Sarah Yarkin), for his thesis seems to finally to be working. But the trio is surprised to discover that the device generated a higher concentration of energy than they expected around the moment Tree got stuck in her time loop, which came to a close when she solved her own murder.

Ryan also begins to panic when his day also leads to his own death. The person who’s determined to murder him is wearing the same baby mask that serves as their university’s mascot, which Tree’s former roommate, Lori (Ruby Modine), also wore while pursuing her in the first film. After Ryan relives his death day for the second time, Tree realizes that he’s now stuck in his own time loop, and she must help figure out why the cycle was passed on to Carter’s roommate.

Along with the help of Samar and Dre, Tree, Carter and Ryan discover that the apparatus started the time loop, and Tree’s repeated reliving of her death day have thrown multiple universes off-balance. So Tree and Carter are forced to help Ryan and his fellow science majors find a way to put the multiple universes back on track, so that the time loops can finally close, and they can all carry out their true destinies.

Landon, who also took over the writing duties from the original film’s scribe, Scott Lobdell, crafted another stunningly original and standout story in the horror-comedy subgenre. While many horror comedies fail to find a meaningful balance between the frightening scares and amusing humor, in ‘Happy Death Day 2U,’ the filmmaker effortlessly recaptured both the terrifying panic and whimsical jokes that made the original movie so exhilarating and a notable standout. Tree, Carter and their friends are genuinely anxious and fearful of what will happen to them if they don’t find a way to close the time loops, but aren’t afraid to also rely on joking with each other to ease their tension.

‘Happy Death Day 2U’ is also memorable in the fact that while the first film puts a slasher-spin on ‘Groundhog Day,’ the sci-fi-thriller follow-up is horror retelling of ‘Back to the Future II.’ Ryan’s determination to try to find a way to slow down time leads him to uncover the fact that multiple universes and alternate realities actually do exist, which allows him and his friends to appreciate who they truly are, and where their lives should be headed. Landon made the right decision to not retread the exact same concept that appeared in the sequel’s predecessor, and instead expand the universe to explore why the time loop happened, and what effects it has on everyone’s lives.

Rothe, Broussard, Vu and the rest of the cast infused cheeky wit into their portrayals of their respective characters while they also emotionally contended with their respective existential crisis. Like its predecessor, Rothe was the standout star of the comedy-infused horror-thriller sequel, as she further delved into Tree’s conflicted internal debate over which reality she should live in. While the protagonist was initially ecstatic that she finally figured out how to close her initial time loop, some of the realities that she uncovers in her new universe are far more appealing than in her original existence.

While it may take a brush with death for a once self-centered person like Tree to realize that they must contend with the unfinished business in their life before they can truly be happy and move on, the struggles they endure during the process can ultimately make them more aware of how their choices and behavior ultimately impact their universe. ‘Happy Death Day 2U’ is the rare comedy-driven horror-thriller that smartly uses its humor and seemingly light-hearted tone to ponder how people should lead their lives, and the effects their actions have on the people around them.

Rothe smartly infused her protagonist with the determination to finally accept, and even embrace, her personal losses, and allow them to shape who she’ll become once the time loop ends, which makes her one of the strongest and stand-out heroines in the slasher sub-genre. ‘Happy Death Day 2U’ has such intriguing character and story development that viewers will surely be elated to play it on endless time loops.

Technical: A-

Acting: B+

Story: B

Overall: B+

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By Karen Benardello

As a graduate of LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic, Karen Benardello serves as ShockYa's Senior Movies & Television Editor. Her duties include interviewing filmmakers and musicians, and scribing movie, television and music reviews and news articles. As a New York City-area based journalist, she's a member of the guilds, New York Film Critics Online and the Women Film Critics Circle.

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