Sunday, September 1, 2019

The Many Lives Of Tree: Happy Death Day 2U (2019)

Happy Death Day 2U (2019)
Rating: ***
Starring: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Phi Vu

When they announced Happy Death Day (2017) was getting a sequel back then, I wasn't really all that excited considering the talks of it being less a straight-up slasher and more of a scifi comedy. So for some time, I distanced myself from ever seeing the sequel and considered the original Happy Death Day (2017), now one of my new favorite modern slashers, to be good enough one-off. Until, that is, fate would have its way one day and I find myself reading a post from one of my favorite slasher review sites giving it a passing rate. Long story short, I got curious, decided to finally give it a whirl and my gods, this is one of the funnest scifi-comedy-horror tatermash I ever indulged myself with!

The first Happy Death Day (2017) has simple things going for it; be Bill Murray's Groundhog Day (1993) only as a PG-13 slasher where a sassy snob of a campus girl named Tree (Jessica Rothe) gets killed off by a masked figure called Baby Face, only to re-live the same day again and again after each death until she figures out who's behind the mask and stop them. By the end of it, a slasher gets killed, Tree lives to see the next day as a better woman and celebrates it by snuggling with her sweet new boyfriend Carter (Israel Broussard) before getting hilariously interrupted by his gawky roommate, Ryan (Phi Vu).

Happy Death Day 2U (2019) continues where the first left off, making itself look like it's re-hashing the time loop whodunit game again only focusing on Ryan's perspective in this round; after waking up in his car and stumbling his way back to the dorms to do the aforementioned walk-in between Tree and Carter's kissing session, Ryan gets word from his geeky lab mates that a machine they're building for a thesis suddenly got a peak of high energy the day before. This should have been exciting news for our hapless dork if only the dean hadn't just shut down their project due to it causing too many power outages (and other monetary concerns), as well as the matter that he'll soon get lured into an empty room and stabbed by another Baby Face.

Before you could say déjà vu, Ryan re-awakens inside the same car and quickly notices that he is repeating the very morning he had just a few minutes ago. Rightfully panicked, he rushes to Carter for help, only for Tree to realize that Ryan is now in his own stalked-killed-looped situation and that he may have something to do with these loops after he mentioned his thesis project: an experimental quantum reactor that's close to being functional. Nevertheless, Tree agrees to help and find who's working the knife underneath the Baby Face mask but gets a surprising find when she, Carter and Ryan unmasked... Another Ryan!

True to their word, this is where Happy Death Day 2U (2019) stopped retreading the time loop whodunit gag completely as it turns out Second Ryan is killing First Ryan to stop him and his machine from further ruining the timelines. An argument breaks out and First Ryan stubbornly activates the unstable reactor to destroy Second Ryan, leading to a burst of energy that sends everybody in the room flying and knocked out. As Tree wakes up, she sees in horror and completely understandable rage that she's back reliving her original time loop, though with a few differences: Carter is actually dating her bitchy sorority president Danielle (Rachel Matthews ), there's no Baby Face Killer going for her throat and, cutting deep into her heartstrings, her late mother is now alive and well.

Turns out, as this timeline's Ryan theorizes, the reactor caused Tree to drift into an alternate dimension and seeing this as a chance to live a new life with her beloved mum, she decides on staying and help Ryan fix his time machine, even if it meant dying each day. Literally. This shift of focus is what strays Happy Death Day 2U (2019) from its slasher kin and, as one might expect, it unsurprisingly has its ups and downs.

On a positive note, the comedy of this film is just one of the best thanks to Rothe once again playing Tree with all the needed snark and warmth that turns her character's warranted irritation into a comical journey of wisecracks and physical gags, including a twisted suicide montage that ranges from simple yet campy self-kills to punk-rocked bodily decimation for that nice dash of dark comedy.

Apart from Rothe, most of the teen casts also got their funny sides going such as Rachel Matthews reprising her role as a kinder, more dim-witted yet still pretentious sorority president who, apparently even in another dimension, is still the hilarious thorn on Tree's side. (Hehe. Tree? Thorn? Get it?...I'll stop now) The character steps up the funnies with her newfound fascination on acting a role for The Miracle Worker, although confusing Anne Frank with Helen Keller which surprisingly comes in great slapstick use to what can be another highlight for this movie. And then there are Ryan’s quantum physics lab partners Samar (Suraj Sharma) and Dre (Sarah Yarkin), two atypically awkward yet lovable nerds spatting out some of the goofiest one-liners concerning everything from Yoo-hoo chocolate drinks to using the school computer to access porn. Let's just say I'm glad these two didn't get the knife's end coz that would have ended me.

The emotional Mcguffin of choosing between living a life of one's own over one that isn't theirs for the sake of a loved one also gave our lead a wonderful exercise of serious emotions that honestly almost left me a bit teary-eyed, thus not only do we get to see more of the fun snide but we also get treated to some workable wholesome development that further explores our main girl's human side, this time as a loving daughter whose relationships are shaken further into heavy choices the more she stays, dies and resets in her current dimension.

As a downside, this meant the slasher run of the movie are set aside for the dramatics and funnies, more or less leaving the horror elements feeling a tad misplaced and often uninteresting; there is still a masked slasher out stabbing people in Tree's misplaced dimension, though the only reason why she got involved because of her persistence on saving a sorority housemate from a soon-to-be-escaped slasher. The killer's real identity isn't that hard to figure out in turn, not with it plastered obvious from the get-go, so the stalk-and-stab sequences failed to be that thrilling save for the two attacks at the beginning prior to the dimension hopping and the bloodletting is lean-close to being dry if it wasn't for that Paramore-tuned montage.

Normally, I would be disappointed as a slasher fan for the lack of Baby Face doing their creepy baby mask stalker gag and an ingenious loopy twist on the dead teenager story, but Happy Death Day 2U (2019) aims to wander further into different terrains and with most of the routes it took being a fun ride through and through, I can learn to look pass the lackluster bodycounting facets and enjoy this as the PG-13 horror scifi dramedy it is, mostly played for laughs. Far from scary, bloody or thrilling, it’s still a sequel worth watching whenever you're feeling open to something new and fun!

1 male knifed on the chest
1 male knifed to death
1 female knifed on the gut
1 female falls to her death
1 female electrocuted in a tub with a live hair dryer
1 female drinks chemicals
1 female jumps off a plane
1 female runs into a woodchipper
1 female drops off a clock tower
1 female found murdered
1 male shot
1 male and 1 female immolated in gas explosion
2 males and 1 female reported murdered
1 female drives to a power station, killed in crash
1 male shot dead
1 female shot
1 male stabbed and impaled through the chest with a magnetized screwdriver
Total: 20...ish. Still

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