HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U, from director Christopher Landon (Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, Happy Death Day), is the follow-up sequel to 2017’s Happy Death Day which reunites the entire cast for a whole new series of surprise twists, turns, and danger. The film brings back Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine, Phi Vu, Rachel Matthews, and Charles Aitken as well as some new faces including Suraj Sharma (Life of Pi), Sarah Yarkin (TV’s Foursome), and Steve Zissis (HBO’s Togetherness, The House).

HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U picks up right where Happy Death Day left off with Tree (Jessica Rothe) saving herself from the baby-masked killer and ending the birthday loop from hell so as to start a new life and a new relationship with Carter (Israel Broussard) in hopes that she’ll learn to never repeat the mistakes of her past. However, the question remained, how did the loop begin in the first place? Tree quickly learns the truth when she finds herself stuck in a brand new time loop located within a parallel universe, making her question if maybe she’s better off here then in the life she has always known.

(L-R) Phi Vu, Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Sarah Yarkin and Suraj Sharma in HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U

When it was announced that there was going to be a sequel to Happy Death Day, I scratched my head in bewilderment. I enjoyed the first film but wasn’t sure it warranted a sequel as I felt the writers did a good job wrapping up the storyline. I’ll be honest, I initially thought this sequel was going to be a money grab for Blumhouse due to the success of the first film but man oh man, I couldn’t have been more wrong. HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U does what so many sequels wish they could do, which is surpass their predecessor. Though I had very little expectations going in, I was surprised by just how much I truly loved this film as I found myself jumping at the perfectly timed jump-scares and shedding a tear during the more sentimental moments.

What really elevates this film is the tightly woven storyline from both Christopher Landon and Scott Lobdell. All the familiar beats from the first film were there, but Landon and Lobdell made it feel fresh and new without pandering to the audience. The sequel also was able to answer the question of how the loop started in the first place and the resulting answer to that made complete sense in the context of the film. I also liked how the different narratives used shined a light on characters such as Lori (Ruby Modine), Ryan (Phi Vu), and Professor Butler (Charles Aitken) in a way that allowed us to understand them better, even if it was in regards to them being in a parallel universe. What really caught me off guard, though, was the amount of heart that the film had, especially when Tree interacts with her mother. This brought up a lot of feelings for me in regards to losing my father at a young age, and though almost 18 years have passed since then, it’s still hard not to think about him, especially in the context of what Tree experienced with her mom.

Jessica Rothe in HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U | Image Courtesy of Universal Pictures

After the film ended, my boyfriend made a remark about how much he enjoyed the movie but found it to be more of a dark comedy as opposed to a horror film. Thinking about it now, I can easily see where he’s coming from. Though not horror in the traditional sense, there were still enough elements of that genre to allow the film to be categorized as such. Though HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U incorporates a lot of humor, there were a few well-placed jump scares as well as enough twists and turns to keep the audience guessing on who could be the baby-faced killer. As someone who is not a fan of rom-com’s, I have to admit, I found myself completely wrapped up in the love story between Tree and Carter because it felt so natural and genuine. In the end, it’s easy to care for these characters because, even though they are flawed, they mean well.

I can’t finish this review without commenting on the acting. With so many horror films out there, the acting can range from phenomenal (i.e. Toni Collette in Hereditary) to that of, uh, cringe-worthy, but in the case of HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U, the acting truly shined. Jessica Rothe steals the show as Tree, proving that she can once again carry a film and engage with the audience through her transformation. She is definitely someone who has a large career ahead of her and I hope we continue to see her range grow throughout all genres. Israel Broussard evokes kindness and sincerity once again as Carter, using his puppy dog eyes and lovesick heart to win over audience viewers. I also really enjoyed seeing Phi Vu’s role as Ryan expanded, not only because he’s pivotal to the franchise as a whole, but because he’s enjoyable to watch on screen, especially when he taps into his more humorous side. The same goes for his lab partners Samar and Dre (played by Suraj Sharma and Sarah Yarkin), who brought a lot of the humor to the film.

Phi Vu in HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U | Image Courtesy of Univeral Pictures

HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U is definitely a departure from the original but it succeeds in building a larger storyline for the possibility of a solid franchise while maintaining the same overall feel as the first. Blumhouse and Universal Pictures definitely have something special with this world that they are building and it makes me excited to see what they do in the event of a third film, which if the end credit scene is any indication, there is going to be a lot in store for fans in the future. This Valentine’s Day, get ready to enjoy a killer comeback when HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U is released in theaters.   

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