‘Happy Death Day 2U’ review: A risky genre-bending exercise

Happy Death Day 2U as a go-for-broke sequel has a bunch of hit or miss ideas under its belt.

The following review contains major spoilers from Happy Death Day and minor spoilers from Happy Death Day 2U.

One of Blumhouse’s low-budget breakout films in 2017, Happy Death Day, is a high-concept, black-comedy slasher flick that can be easily explained as a mashup of Groundhog Day and Scream. In the film, an obnoxious college student Tree (Jessica Rothe) finds herself reliving the same events of her birthday (“Monday the 18th”) only to be murdered by the end of it. After trying and dying for eleven times, she finally figures out who the ‘Babyface Killer’ is – her roommate Lori (Ruby Modine) – and kills her before she does, thereby successfully breaking the time loop. Or so she thought.

While the film could’ve worked as a stand-alone, its sequel, Happy Death Day 2U, answers the loose threads of the first film, more specifically, the cause of the strange, recurring phenomena. Turns out, Ryan (Phi Vu), the roommate of Tree’s love interest Carter (Israel Broussard), has been working on a quantum reactor that backfired and affected Tree whose within close proximity. Now HDD2U’s trailer may suggest that she somehow gets sent back to the same loophole again but what the trailer disguises is that Tree actually gets sucked to an alternate reality of her “Monday the 18th.” Yes, this sequel pushes the boundary to sci-fi territory and works on the concept of a multiverse. If you’re caught up with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse or The Flash TV series, this should not be confusing.

The gang tries to crack the time loop formula in ‘Happy Death Day 2U.’ L-R: Israel Broussard (Carter), Phi Vu (Ryan), Sarah Yarkin (Dre), Suraj Sharma (Samar) and Jessica Rothe (Tree).

Regardless, the film explains the proceedings to its viewers by utilizing the roles of Ryan and his coalition of science geeks to spell out the scientific mumbo jumbo behind it. With the alternate dimension in play, the circumstances are now different: there’s a change in relationship among the characters, the ‘Babyface Killer’ is no longer Lori, and each death makes Tree weaker. Part of Tree’s ordeal is not only to figure out who the new killer is, but also to find a way to get back to her original and now normal dimension, “Tuesday the 19th.”

For better or worse, HDD2U is distinctly goofier than its predecessor. Writer-director Christopher Landon recognizes the need to add something fresh to his running gimmick by unabashedly transitioning the sequel to sci-fi comedy, even referencing Back to the Future II to show the film’s level of self-awareness. And the tonal shift does not end there – in an attempt to add more fun and substance, the screenplay haphazardly moves to college romance, family drama, heist then finally, slapstick comedy. This apparent genre-bending exercise can be a deal-breaker to some but for the most part, it contributes to the film’s zaniness. True to its core, HDD2U feels like an alternate and bonkers version of the first film.

Confronting the original ‘Babyface Killer.’ L-R: Broussard, Ruby Modine (Lori), Vu and Rothe.

The risks that the film takes does not always pay off. Once again, we are left with even more plot holes and loose threads, and the film’s horror elements are deliberately placed in the backseat – a huge disappointment for those who are out for blood and scares. Had Landon found a way to make the masked killer more integral to the plot, this would feel more as an organic sequel. Compared to the first film where Tree is always racing against time, there’s less urgency here given that the story is busy delving into its comical and sci-fi elements.

It is Rothe’s delightful and versatile performance that mostly binds the franchise together. From a character perspective, the first film feels earned due to her redemptive arc from being an insensitive b*tch to a kick-ass heroine. This sequel gives her the opportunity to wrestle with more internal conflicts, thereby adding more emotional depth to Tree. Her frustration and anger remain to be played for amusement but unlike other ‘death’-centric films such as Final Destination, she never feels like a doomed pawn. The character feels empowered knowing that she’s in the joke and she can reset the day anytime she wanted to. Hence when it comes to her creative and brilliantly edited suicide montage – including a fashionable skydive in bikini, this is where the film truly shines as a dark comedy.

The Quantum Reactor. Broussard and Rothe in ‘Happy Death Day 2U.’

Happy Death Day 2U can definitely use another sitting in the screenplay editing room. While it has the big balls to subvert more expectations in its genre, it’s a flawed affair. Its sci-fi elements won’t fare against scrutiny (not that the film asks you to sweat on the details), it occasionally forgets the standard landmarks to be a slasher film, and it’s definitely at its weakest when it tries to force a soulmate level of romance between Tree and Carter (cue in those cringy kissing scenes!) Otherwise, it is one of those sequels that somehow retroactively improves the original. How fascinating is that.

A third film is teased through a Marvel-esque post-credit scene – an implication that the ride will only get more bizarre and much larger in scope from where it started. It’s something that I’ll definitely watch just to see how it all ends. But frankly, at this point, the franchise already starts to show strain from the ‘time loop fatigue’ that a third film could either keep the whole thing tighter or let it collapse under the weight of its ideas.

3 out of 5 stars
Directed and written by Christopher Landon, ‘Happy Death Day 2U‘ stars Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Rachel Matthews, Phi Vu, Suraj Sharma, Sarah Yarkin, Ruby Modine, Steve Zissis, and Charles Aitken. Run time: 100 minutes.

Sidekick becomes main protagonist in ‘Happy Death Day’ sequel

As director-writer Christopher Landon developed the characters in Universal Pictures’ new suspense thriller Happy Death Day 2U — the sequel to the 2017 acclaimed box-office hitHappy Death Day — it was important to give unexpected arcs to supporting players.(

A great example is with Ryan (Pitch Perfect’s Phi Vu), Carter’s (Israel Broussard) annoying roommate: “Last time, Ryan was just a douchey guy barging in the room,” Landon says. “Happy Death Day 2U picks up just where the last film left off. We shot that scene when he interrupts Tree and Carter kissing from Ryan’s point of view. Where before Ryan was just this random guy barging in, now we discover he’s a brilliant, shining star in the science department—one who has created a device that loops time.”

Phi Vu as Ryan in “Happy Death Day 2U,” written and directed by Christopher Landon.

In the film, Ryan whose fascinating ability to always be in the wrong place at the wrong second, has spent his college years building a machine designed to prove that time can be slowed down to the molecular level. Alongside his fellow aspiring engineers, Ryan and team are this close to perfecting the Sisyphus Quantum Cooling Reactor (SISSY) and becoming candidates for a Nobel Prize (or blowing up Bayfield University and everyone within a 100-mile radius, whichever comes first).

When Tree (Jessica Rothe) wakes up to find that it’s Ryan’s meddling with the natural order that has brought havoc to every dimension, she must rally the troops to get to the real source of the time jumps and fix it for good.

Back as Ryan and the key to the time loop that keeps trapping Tree, is Phi Vu. The actor took a relatively small part in the first film and made it unforgettable. That wasn’t lost on his co-star. “I have to give Phi huge props,” Rothe says. “He’s done an incredible job stepping up to the plate. Again, it’s such an amazing opportunity that Chris has created with this sequel because we get a bigger insight into these other characters’ lives. We get to expand upon this world we think we already know, and it becomes apparent how complex and layered it really is.”

(from left) Tree (Jessica Rothe), Carter (Israel Broussard, face obscured) and Ryan (Phi Vu) in “Happy Death Day 2U,” written and directed by Christopher Landon.

In the last film, we are led to believe that Ryan is merely this obnoxious roommate who thinks of Tree as Carter’s one-time hookup. What we don’t see until the sequel is that it is Ryan’s genius (and meddling with the laws of time and space) that has created this mess that has trapped Tree and flummoxed everyone’s destiny. “This whole debacle is because of Ryan,” Vu says. “He is this accidentally mad scientist who built this very complicated machine that loops time. What he created is something beyond his imagination.” The actor says that his favorite part of the new film is “coming across the alternate Ryan. I’m pretty sure everyone in the world would love to see their double self.”

In Philippine cinemas February 13, Happy Death Day 2U is distributed in the Philippines by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures. 

(from left) Ryan (Phi Vu), Tree (Jessica Rothe) and Carter (Israel Broussard) in “Happy Death Day 2U,” written and directed by Christopher Landon.

About Happy Death Day 2U

Jessica Rothe leads the returning cast of Happy Death Day 2U, the follow-up to Blumhouse’s (Glass, Split, Get Out, The Purge series) surprise 2017 hit of riveting, repeating twists and comic turns. This time, our hero Tree Gelbman (Rothe) discovers that dying over and over was surprisingly easier than the dangers that lie ahead.

When last we left Tree, she saved herself from a certain death at the hands of her roommate Lori (Ruby Modine, Showtime’s Shameless) as she kicked the psychopath out of the Kappa Nu sorority window. Tree’s never-ending birthday was FINALLY over, and she managed to start an entire new life…swearing to never repeat her old mistakes again.

Or so she thought.

WATCH: Trailer for ‘Happy Death Day’ sequel promises more twists, scares

This Valentine’s Day, death makes a killer comeback.  Watch the first official trailer of Universal Pictures’ upcoming suspense thriller Happy Death Day 2U, the sequel to the 2017 acclaimed box-office hit Happy Death Day.  Original director and screenwriter Christopher Landon and star Jessica Rothe are back for more scares.

Check out the teaser poster and trailer below and watch Happy Death Day 2U in Philippine cinemas February 13.

About Happy Death Day 2U

Jessica Rothe leads the returning cast of Happy Death Day 2U, the follow-up to Blumhouse’s (Split, Get Out, The Purge series) surprise 2017 smash hit of riveting, repeating twists and comic turns.  This time, our hero Tree Gelbman (Rothe) discovers that dying over and over was surprisingly easier than the dangers that lie ahead.

Jason Blum once again produces and Christopher Landon returns to write and direct this next chapter, while Happy Death Day executive producers Angela Mancuso and John Baldecchi are newly joined by EP Samson Mucke (Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse).

Happy Death Day 2U is distributed in the Philippines by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures. 

From the studio that brought ‘Paranormal Activity’ comes ‘Happy Death Day’

After collaborating on the Paranormal Activity series, director Christopher Landon again teams up with Jason Blum and his Blumhouse Productions for Universal Pictures’ new suspense-thriller Happy Death Day.

Known for partnering with imaginative filmmakers, Blum has shepherded two of the biggest success stories of 2017. His latest projects include the blockbuster Split, from writer/director/producer M. Night Shyamalan, which hit No. 1 for three weeks on the box-office charts; and the Cinderella story of the year: Get Out, from writer/director/ producer Jordan Peele, which debuted at No. 1 at the box office and grossed more than $250 million worldwide.

Blum shares his rationale for wanting to join Landon on this journey: “I have worked on five movies with Chris, and I completely trust him creatively. He gave me the script and I liked the idea, but the real reason I did it was because of my belief in him.”

In Happy Death Day, a college student named Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe of La La Land) relives the day of her murder with both its unexceptional details and terrifying end until she discovers her killer’s identity.

The veteran producer examines the thrilling aspects of the storyline, and just how they engage: “The audience knows the character is going to get killed, but you do not know how. Chris gives the audience enough information to be scared, but not too much. The way the information is doled out makes the movie terrifying and effective.”

Now showing across Philippine cinemas, Happy Death Day is distributed in the Philippines by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.

‘Happy Death Day’ tops weekend opening in US box office at $26.5-M

It’s celebration time for Universal Pictures and Blumhouse’s Happy Death Day as the new suspense-thriller opened at No.1 in North America this weekend October 6-8, with $26.5 million from 3,149 locations.

Check out Happy Death Day in Philippine cinemas October 18, 2017.

A horror spin on Groundhog Day, Happy Death Day centers on Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) as a woman who wakes up to the same day — her birthday — every day, and is murdered every time. Christopher B. Landon directed the film based on a script by Scott Lobdell.

The film, which earned a B CinemaScore, particularly appealed to female and younger moviegoers — the audience was split 54% female, as opposed to 46% male, and 63% was under age 25. The release date was pegged to Friday the 13th and the weeks leading up to Halloween.

“We’re obviously thrilled with the release,” said Universal’s executive VP of domestic distribution Jim Orr. “It’s an original, scary, and exciting twist on the genre,” he added, pointing to the studio’s successful partnership with Blumhouse. “They bring a lot more to the table than the standard genre fare.”

Earlier this year in January, Blumhouse’s Split opened to a monster $40 million in January, and went on to earn $278.3 million worldwide. Then, the next month, Get Out was a smash hit as well with a $33.4 million opening and $253.1 million in global grosses by the end of its run. The production house is also responsible for the hugely profitable Purge and Paranormal Activity franchises.

Happy Death Day is distributed in the Philippines by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.

College girl dies every day in slasher film ‘Happy Death Day’

She made waves despite a brief but memorable supporting role opposite Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in the Oscar-winning La La Land. Now, star-on-the-rise Jessica Rothe lands the lead role in Universal Pictures’ new suspense-thriller Happy Death Day (in Philippine cinemas Oct. 18).

In the film, Rothe plays a college student named Tree Gelbman who relives the day of her murder with both its unexceptional details and terrifying end until she discovers her killer’s identity.

When Tree is woken up by her cell phone ringing at the beginning of the story, the audience quickly discovers that it is her birthday. She is not thrilled about it being her special day, and is dodging her father’s phone calls…for reasons that will soon allow for character sympathy. It quickly becomes clear that she is not a nice person—and one that has many enemies that might be interested in her vanishing.

Director Christopher Landon sets up her personality: “Tree is initially your stereotypical sorority girl. The world that she exists in is all about appearances: She is focused on her looks, her body and her Instagram.” He pauses. “Still, you get a sense that deep down that is not who she truly is.”

For Landon, it was a no brainer to turn to Rothe for the role of Tree, a character who is in virtually every scene of the film. The director explains: “Jessica is unbelievable because she had to run the gamut. She had to be the uptight bitch, but then she had to be this vulnerable girl trying to figure out her life. On top of that, she needed to be terrified while being hunted down by an unknown killer…and then she had to be empowered and fight back. Her range is incredible.”

Rothe was immediately hooked with the story’s ability to capture her imagination and allow her to experience and present such a range of emotions. “I love when I read scripts that truly pop off the page, capture your emotions and allow you to invest in the lives of the characters. This was one of those scripts for me. The amazing balance of humor, horror, action and heart is something you just do not find often.”

The performer reflects on the exact moment she was positive she had to play Tree: “I knew I had to do this film was when I read the ‘Tree dies six ways while looking for her killer and living her life like a badass set to upbeat pop music’ montage,” she laughs. “This montage is everything that is brilliant about the film. We watch Tree become an active participant in her life instead of a victim, but it is fun—at moments scary—and doesn’t take itself too seriously. Tree is a true modern-day scream queen, and her transformation from bitchy victim to badass heroine is one you do not get to see often. I knew that I had to play her, get in her skin, move around and take her out for a spin.”

“Our film is unique in the sense that the moments of heart-pounding suspense are sandwiched with humor, everything from biting wit to fart jokes,” concludes Rothe. “I have always found that the most effective films are those that utilize the juxtaposition of contrasting emotions to heighten each other.”

Happy Death Day is distributed in the Philippines by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.

Wake, die, repeat in slasher film ‘Happy Death Day’

What will you do if you can repeat a day in your life over and over again just to find out who killed you?

Multiple films across various genres have elegantly pulled off the time loop element—from Doug Liman’s Edge of Tomorrow to Richard Curtis’ About Time. Now, time-bending gets tackled anew with surprising results in Universal Pictures’ suspense-thriller Happy Death Day.

(Check out the film’s trailer below and watch Happy Death Day in Philippine cinemas October 18, 2017.)

A veteran of penning unpredictable screenplays such as Disturbia and Paranormal Activity 2, Christopher Landon moved into the writer/director’s chair for Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones and Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse. A filmmaker who has long shown a knack for staying away from disposable horror films, Landon is drawn to stories that hold a mirror up to society and simultaneously entertain and challenge his audiences.

Once he was presented with Scott Lobdell’s story of Happy Death Day, the director couldn’t help but think of a certain 1993 time-loop classic: “When I read the script, I had the immediate reaction that everybody does: ‘This is the horror-movie version of Groundhog Day! Why has this not been done before?’” he asks. “That was when the light bulb turned on, because the concept alone was a slam dunk to me—it was just really clever.”

Landon reflects on the challenges of a lead character reliving the same day repeatedly: “When you have to keep experiencing the same day over and over again, it is easy to fall into a trap. We establish the day and then we repeat it, so that the audience and the character understand what is happening. Once we do those things, we immediately take Tree off course. She starts to try to outsmart her own death—and in doing so—the story takes the audience to different places and gives them unexpected experiences.”

Known for his innovative work on Marvel Comics’ X-Men titles (“Daredevil,” “Fantastic Four”), Lobdell offers that it was his aim to craft a story in which the lead had to solve her own murder. The writer explains: “Most teen slasher movies feature a series of victims being picked off throughout—once you are terrorized and killed you are never heard from again. I was interested in the idea of a character who gets to react to her death—one who can stalk her killer and who is given to opportunity to make the most of the last day of her life.”

Landon offers that what appealed to him about making this project his next one is that the story represents equal parts humor and terror: “Our scares are scares, people definitely jump and scream, but the laughs are big, too. Comedy and horror, even though they make strange bedfellows, have a lot in common. The lay-up for a scare is very similar to the lay-up for a joke. If you are able to find the rhythm where you able to scare and then to make laugh—and continue to rotate between those two things—it is a lot of fun for the audience.”

Happy Death Day is distributed in the Philippines by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.

‘Happy Death Day’ teaser poster makes deadly cut

The first poster for the new suspense thriller Happy Death Day has just been unveiled by Universal Pictures and Blumhouse. The film is co-written and directed by Christopher Landon (Scouts’ Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse).

Check out the film’s teaser one-sheet art below and watch Happy Death Day in Philippine cinemas on Oct. 11, 2017.

Blumhouse (Split, Get Out, Whiplash) produces an original and inventive rewinding thriller in Happy Death Day, in which a college student (Jessica Rothe, La La Land) relives the day of her murder with both its unexceptional details and terrifying end until she discovers her killer’s identity.

The film also stars Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine, Rachel Matthews, and Charles Aitken.

Happy Death Day is distributed in the Philippines by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.

WATCH: ‘Happy Death Day’ trailer reveals ‘Groundhog Day’-like slasher film

Universal Pictures and Blumhouse have released the first trailer for the new horror film Happy Death Day. Co-written and directed by Christopher Landon (Scouts’ Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse).

Blumhouse (Split, Get Out, Whiplash) produces an original and inventive rewinding thriller in Happy Death Day, in which a college student (Jessica Rothe, La La Land) relives the day of her murder with both its unexceptional details and terrifying end until she discovers her killer’s identity.

Check out the film’s trailer below and watch Happy Death Day in Philippine cinemas on Oct. 11, 2017.

The film also stars Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine, Rachel Matthews, and Charles Aitken.

Happy Death Day is distributed in the Philippines by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.