Happy Death Day 2U (15)

Horror (2019)
100mins US

Starring: Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine, Jessica Rothe
Director: Christopher Landon
Writer(s): Christopher Landon
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

Tree Gelbman thought she had escaped the deadly time loop when she learnt the identity of her attacker. Unexpectedly, Tree becomes trapped in another loop and faces a similarly masked attacker, who strikes a fatal blow to her sorority sister Lori. As before, Tree joins forces with handsome beau Carter to unravel the mystery but this time, she also enlists the services of science geeks Samar and Dre to take a rigorous academic approach to her predicament.

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LondonNet Film Review
Happy Death Day 2U (15)

As the convoluted plot of writer-director Christopher Landon's horror thriller grinds into gear, a science boffin listens intently to the film's heroine describe being stuck in an alternate time loop with subtle differences from the first. Her dead mother is now alive, the acid-tongued queen bee of the Kappa Phi Lambda sorority is the most popular girl on campus thanks to her charitable endeavours and the killer's scheming accomplice is one of his victims. Quickly processing the information, the science nerd theorises they are trapped in a sequel...

Happy Death Day 2U. Copyright: Universal Pictures. Caption: Jessica Rothe as Tree Gelbman in Happy Death Day 2U, directed by Christopher Landon. Photo: Michele K. Short. All Rights Reserved."This kind of reminds me of Back To The Future II," he observes to blank stares from the heroine, who wouldn't know a DeLorean time machine if it drove over her then reversed to finish the job. The two-dimensional geek is, disappointingly, on the money with his analogy: Happy Death Day 2U is overstuffed with narrative, less entertaining and relies heavily on our affection for characters from a slicker and superior original. Worst of all, Landon is so concerned with explaining his time loops through extraneous dialogue laden with multiverses and temporal ripples that he neglects to deliver edge of seat thrills and gratuitous blood spills. Oh the horror, or rather the lack of it.

As before, Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) wakes repeatedly on her birthday, September 18, and enlists the help of dorky beau Carter (Israel Broussard) to unravel the mystery. Power surges on campus lead to a laboratory where student Ryan Phan (Phi Vu) has constructed a machine for his thesis with classmates Samar (Suraj Sharma) and Dre (Sarah Yarkin) that could account for Tree's hellish predicament. Familiar faces reappear: sorority sisters Lori (Ruby Modine) and Rachel (Danielle Bouseman), Tree's father (Jason Bayle), university professor Gregory (Charles Aitken) and escaped serial killer John Tombs (Rob Mello). As the clock ticks down to her daily demise, Tree searches for a way to stop tumbling down the rabbit hole before the university's meddlesome dean (Steve Zissis) pulls the plug on Ryan's experiment.

Happy Death Day 2U is more of a romantic comedy than a waggish slasher, which accounts for the Valentine's Day release. The only way audiences will be jumping out of their seats is if someone accidentally spills a drink in their lap because writer-director Landon forgets to provide any conventional jolts or scares. Rothe is still the franchise's strongest asset and she showcases her full range from tear-stained, sobbing heartbreak to eye-rolling comedy. In a throwback to Groundhog Day, Tree kills herself in increasingly inventive ways to reset the loop, including an acrobatic leap into a wood chipper. "Rookie error," she scolds herself after she plummets to her death off a rooftop during one chase with her masked assailant. Landon is no rookie but his sequel is a regrettable error in design.

- Jo Planter

Happy Death Day 2U. Copyright: Universal Pictures. Caption: Jessica Rothe as Tree Gelbman in Happy Death Day 2U, directed by Christopher Landon. Photo: Michele K. Short. All Rights Reserved.

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