By: Felix Felicis (Two Beers) –
Every time I think that 2019 is going to be an unredeemable bag of dicks set ablaze for us to roast the last of our dignity over whilst sipping frozen wine coolers around the dumpster fire our democracy has become since the hard left into a parallel reality *sunglasses emoji* ‘murica took in 2016 something happens to pull me back from that toasty ledge. Puppies pupping. Ted Danson in a bow tie doing the floss. Ted Danson doing anything, really. Captain Marvel‘s phenomenal early buzz. Cheese. God I love cheese. I’m also really into Llamas right now. But I digress. I haven’t been as excited for a sequel to a movie I unabashedly loved since Kingsman: The Golden Circle and Super Troopers 2 (my number one Worst Movie of 2018) ripped the still-beating cinematic heart out of my chest and crushed it, Indiana Jones Kali-Ma-style. Except, unlike the aforementioned stinging cold sores of silverscreen sequel disappointment, Happy Death Day 2 U is actually worth cracking open your box office billfold, y’all. Disclaimer: No Ted Dansons were harmed in the making of this film. Mostly because no Ted Dansons were involved in the making of this film, le sigh.
You won’t have a fucking clue about what’s going on in this movie unless you’ve seen Happy Death Day so I recommend a re-watch, or first watch, as you’re gonna need a prequel plunge to REAP (GET IT REAP LIKE THE GRIM REAPER – I’m also not sorry for that joke, either) maximum benefits. Hot Tip: Watch the first flick with the captions on (you haven’t lived until you’ve seen/heard Frat Bros screaming “BABIES FOR LIFE!” because the Bayfield collegiate mascot is maybe the creepiest baby effigy ever created) and give the alternate ending a peep before checking out HDD2U, it’ll give your razor a sharper edge when saddling up for this homicidal ho-down. If you don’t have the time, here’s a (SLIGHT HAPPY DEATH DAY SPOILERS) recap: Mean girl Sorority Sister Theresa “Tree” Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) gets trapped in a time loop on her birthday a la slasher-flick Groundhog Day where she gets killed over and over again until she can figure out who’s behind BabyFace Killah’s murder spree (and get them before she gets got one too many times to come back).
Happy Death Day 2 U follows pretty close on Tree’s heels from the first film, except we open on Dimpled Love Interest With A Heart Of Gold (Israel Broussard’s lovable hottie who can ABSOLUTELY get it aka “Carter Davis”) from Happy Death Day…’s roommate Ryan Phan (Phi Vu) as he lives and relives a strange sequence of events that culminate in his day starting over ONCE HE’S BEEN MURDERED BY THAT GODDAMNED BABYFACE KILLAH… AGAIN.
Tree and Carter immeowdiately hop on the belief bandwagon and Scooby Squad up to figure out what in the actual fuck is going on… again. Except shit goes sideways faster than Fyre Festival did on arrival day when Tree gets punted into a parallel reality when the quantum reactor Ryan invented gets a tad explodey. Trapped once more in a birth/deathday loop living a day that’s just a little bit off from the day she had before, Tree is faced with choosing to keeping a life that’s not quite hers (and giving up a future filled with love) or going back and leaving a huge part of herself behind.
The spirit of everything that made Happy Death Day a tour-de-force, unexpected Groundhog Day/slasher-horror hit in 2017 is front and center in its genre-mashup take two (with added Real Genius/Back To The Future II twists) making its 2019 encore more of a Science-Fiction cake with Slasher/Comedy icing and Romance/Drama sprinkles to finish. Taking the Happy Death Day 2 U in a new genre direction breathes fresh life (and death) into what easily could’ve been just another stale sequel.
Jessica Rothe carried the first film, taking Tree from a unlikable Regina George to a reformed Cady Heron with facial expressions for daaaaays. As many close-ups as Rothe emotes through, (while going super un-gently into that fright night) on a merry-go-round of ever-more-inventive deaths, watching this Blumhouse Scream Queen doing her thing never gets old because she SHINES in this role, infusing Tree with both a reservoir of genuine character flaws (which make her almost *painfully* relatable) and sardonic Final Girl grit from start to finish.
Rothe does the same thing here in HDD2U, all the while taking on new and brutal growing pains with her character as Tree’s not just looking for a way out of a random time loop this time, she has real choices to make with very real consequences for others (as well as herself). While you can’t beat the Montage of Mortality (the, now standard I hope, flipping rolodex of Tree’s death scenes) from Happy Death Day, this flick adds a bit of a twist as to how the deaths occur in addition to continually upping the ante. The best death in HDD2U by far happened in re-shoots and even though you see a bit of it in the trailer, the extended death is *chefs kiss* absolute perfection and purely, unequivocally, Tree.
How Rothe’s character interacts with the same list of likely suspects from the first flick to this one flips the script, American Horror Story-season-to-season-style and, just like the girl who cried time loop (except everyone continues to believe her shockingly quickly), the audience and Tree are in the same narrative boat – which makes navigating the incredibly stabby shoals alongside our fave multiple-homicide victim as experimentally immersive as the first film was. That’s a fucking trick and a half to pull off without also trying to explain the multiverse using a generic cafeteria napkin in the same movie but Jason Blum somehow manages to do both.
Give the man a box of edible heroin, I mean Girl Scout cookies, for his efforts because – just like those enterprising little drug dealers (sorry, I mean savvy future generation of Fortune 500 CEO’s), Blum (and HDD2U) imbues female characters with agency (come what may, whether good or bad – but agency nonetheless) which is a refreshing change of pace and, at one point, Happy Death Day 2 U actually gives you a rationale for one of the most classic horror movie tropes, often committed as a crime of lazy genre exploitation.
Not to mention Israel Broussard’s “Carter” (you may remember him from an entry on my Best Movies of 2018 list, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before via Netflix) and Jessica Rothe’s “Tree” have genuine, and genuinely adorable, chemistry together onscreen. They’re not a couple in real life but Tree and Carter are straight-up OTP in the Blumverse. I’ll die on that hill. Probably from wheezing my way to the top.
To sum it up, Happy Death Day 2 U has an endless list of reasons why you should a) own the first film if you don’t already (I do) because, even in a time where you can stream almost anything on one of a million platforms, supporting the work of those making quality cinema never goes out of style and b) why, if you haven’t already seen this flick at least once, you should be firing up Fandango as we speak to reserve a seat. Happy Death Day and Happy Death Day 2 U are twin Russian Nesting Dolls of genre mashup, genre slashup frights and fun. This Blumhouse franchise (fingers crossed Happy Death Day 3 (Happy Death Day Tree, perhaps?) gets greenlit ASAP as Jason Blum and Co. have already teased a reportedly even more insane, yet-another-new-genre threequel premise (dangled like bait on a hook in the sequel’s mid-credits stinger) gleefully goes where few films and/or franchises have gone before: into the wild west of breaking new genre ground.
If you’ve made it all the way to this beer and you’re still reading, it tells me two (maybe three) things. One, you’re a fan of my work and you eagerly await all of my reviews (but you’ve tragically lost all your fingers in a freak frostbite accident a few years back which rendered you agonizingly incapable of leaving a comment below any of them to tell me all of the above because your nubs can’t reach the keyboard). R.I.P your fingers. We’ll miss them. And two, you’re probably thinking “will this birch ever shut up?” The answer to that one is no. I’m going to die one day as I lived, a wordy bitch missed (and begrudgingly) loved by 34% of the people who knew me (plus Ted Danson).
And (possibly) 3) if Happy Death Day 2 U is so great, why is there another beer? Now that I can help you with (and here’s why): The first film, Happy Death Day, was a streamlined, clear-cut film that paced well and had a tight narrative flow which worked with its bonkers premise to deliver a fantastically fresh slice of (supernatural) sorority-slasher-clever-comedy genre splice.
Happy Death Day 2 U follows largely in the same vein as Happy Death Day but has a somewhat sloppier narrative weave that, when both attempting to tie the second film into the first as well as fold in new genre pivots and fresh plot twists at the same time, ends up sporadically hit-or-miss when looking at the sequel through a holistic horror lens. The pacing in HDD2U is slightly arrhythmic at times, and the irregularity draws focus away from an otherwise acerbically charming and energetically engaging film. I also wish Tree’s personal character arc had been defined less by external romantic “consequences” (super stereotypical and lessens her independence as a character) and more than just the hint we got of Tree’s internal ethical and self-actualizing moral compass. There are also a handful of questionably necessary plot points that muddy the waters of Happy Death Day 2 U‘s bloody brilliant, and delightfully unorthodox, cinematic sequel stream.
There’s a deeper character connection – or two – that Tree makes (or re-discovers depending on how you look at it) which, apart from being weighed down by emotionally (and logically) inconsistent narrative choices, and (in one case) a weirdly superfluous and confounding callback cameo (again I say watch Happy Death Day‘s alternate ending) that attempts to explain/justify a red herring twist in a movie that really would have been okay, nay, better without the fish in the first place.
It may not be your birthday, but Happy Death Day 2 U is a gift we can (and should) all enjoy at a box office near you. Or not. Near you, that is. I don’t care if you get kicked into a parallel timeline that hasn’t invented reservation ticket sales yet, throw some elbows during general seating because this flick is a fun ride worth the price of admission in whichever multiverse you currently call home.
Happy Death Day 2 U (2019) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time “SISSY” gets taken and/or taken BACK.
Do a Shot: when Tree has her Big Bang mic drop moment.
Take a Drink: for every failed formula and/or quantum trial.
Take a Sip: each time the day gets “reset” aka for each new death.
Do a Shot: for Danielle’s not-so-surprising study buddy and clutch assist for “SISSY”.
Shotgun Your Beer: when sparks fly between Carter and Tree… LITERALLY.