Happy Death Day 2U

Favorite Things: Best of 2019

As another year ends, it’s time for me to reflect on my favorite pieces of horror entertainment. It’s been another amazing year for horror, making it incredibly difficult to narrow down what I thought was the best. From movies to books to music to events, here are all of my best horror of 2019 selections!

BEST MOVIES OF 2019 (Note: I have two #1 films as I couldn’t choose between them)

10. Sweetheart

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I had a really hard time choosing between a few films to take this spot on my list, but ultimately Sweetheart stuck with me more than the others. Released on Netflix just before the end of the year, this film by J.D. Dillard brings together the thrills of an aquatic monster film with the deeper message of a social commentary film. I wish Blumhouse had done a bit more to get the word out about Sweetheart. It has great creature design/effects, a strong performance from Kiersey Clemons, and sends an important message. Full review here.

9. Harpoon

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This film surprised me because the three characters are so unlikeable! Normally this ruins a film for me because there isn’t anyone to root for, but it worked in Harpoon. Instead of rooting for someone to survive, we could all relish in their darkly humorous demise. The small setting on a boat adds to the tension of being trapped with people you hate and the performances from all three leads are wonderful to watch. Full review here.

8. Happy Death Day 2U

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It was hard to imagine there was any way to make a sequel to Happy Death Day. Yet writer/director Christopher Landon was able to double down and make a sequel that added to the mythos, injected even more humor, added some great sci-fi elements, and made the film have even more emotional depth. Plus, it’s impossible not to love Tree, played by Jessica Rothe. Full review here.

7. Crawl

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Everyone knows I’m a sucker for aquatic horror. Crawl was no exception. It drew from multiple fears people have including natural disasters, small spaces, and of course alligators. The film is very exciting and surprisingly gory, which is everything I could want from a killer gator film. Yet I believe the film held back just enough to keep it from getting too cheesy. Full review here.

6. The Perfection

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This was a film that caught me completely off guard. While watching for the first time, it shocked me again and again while also making me question what subgenre of horror it would end up fitting into. The many twists and turns, the unique format, and the overall plot made me fall in love with The Perfection. It may not work as well upon second watch, but I won’t forget how it felt watching it for the first time. Full review here.

5. Satanic Panic

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Satanic Panic is by far the funniest horror film I saw this year. I loved the play on the classic 80’s idea that the rich get rich by worshipping the devil. It allowed for some hilarious hijinks and fun practical effects. Plus, it’s impossible to not fall in love with the trifecta of badass female leads; Rebecca Romijn, Hayley Griffith, and Ruby Modine (especially Modine because she has the best dialogue). Full review here.

4. Tigers Are Not Afraid

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Writer and director Issa López truly created a powerful film with Tigers Are Not Afraid. It offers a unique glimpse into the lives of little kids surviving on the streets of Mexico, with an added supernatural element. The children acting in this film are absolutely fantastic. The balance of cartel violence, eeriness, and heartbreak tell a beautiful story that can appeal to even those who don’t enjoy horror. Full review here.

3. Daniel Isn’t Real

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This is a film with a plot that shouldn’t work on film. Yet Adam Egypt Mortimer not only made it work, but he create a beautiful film about trauma, mental illness, and inner demons. On top of having a great story, the film also has gorgeous visuals and superb performances from the two male leads. Daniel Isn’t Real is the kind of film that really takes an emotional toll and sticks with the audience long after it’s over. Full review here.

1. Doctor Sleep

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The more I think about it, the more I completely adore everything about this film. Mike Flanagan managed to write and direct what, in my opinion, might be the best Stephen King adaptation with Doctor Sleep. Not only did he bring the book to life, but Flanagan also managed to incorporate the film version of The Shining to appeal to fans of both the film and the books. The film really perfectly conveys trauma and addiction in a beautiful way, has fascinating characters, incorporates gorgeous visuals, and has a cast of amazing actors. Full review here.

1. Midsommar

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It might seem impossible to create an effective horror film drenched in daylight, but Midsommar does just that. Seeing truly horrific events unfold in the light and in a beautiful setting somehow makes everything more disturbing. Another emotionally driven film, the way writer and director Ari Aster is able to convey grief, trauma, and the longing for that feeling of “home” results in a memorable film experience. As someone who was once in a similar relationship as the one between Dani and Christian, I found the film to be especially cathartic to watch. Full review here.

HONORABLE MENTIONS (Films I watched, but didn’t review – no order)

Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror, Wounds, The Nightingale, Knife + Heart, Velvet Buzzsaw, Ready or Not

BEST HORROR SHORTS OF 2019

5. Road Trash – Written and Directed by Natasha Pascetta

4. Fanatico – Directed by Hannah May Cumming, Written by Hannah May Cumming and Sam Schrader

3. Hana – Written and Directed by Mai Nakanishi

2. Cemetery Song – Directed by Michelle Prebich, Animated by Justine Prebich

1. Finley – Written and Directed by J. Zachary Thurman

BEST FILM SCORES OF 2019

5. Tigers Are Not Afraid – Music by Vince Pope

4. Black Site – Music by Max Sweiry

3. Candy Corn – Music by Michael Brooker and Josh Hasty

2. Midsommar – Music by The Haxan Cloak

1. Satanic Panic – Music by Wolfmen of Mars

BEST TV SHOWS OF 2019

5. Creepshow S1 – Shudder

4. N0S4A2 S1 – AMC

3. Castle Rock S2 – Hulu

2. What We Do in the Shadows S1 – FX

1. Stranger Things S3 – Netflix

BEST BOOKS I READ IN 2019 (not necessarily released this year)

5. Osgood as Gone by Cooper S. Beckett

4. The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

3. My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

2. The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer (I know this is cheating since it’s 3 books, but it’s my list so I don’t care)

1. Lady From the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick by Mallory O’Meara

BEST EVENTS OF 2019 (no specific order)

  • Midsummer Scream
  • Portland Horror Film Festival
  • The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs on Shudder – including the holiday specials
  • Into the Dark on Hulu
  • Joe Bob Briggs Live: How Rednecks Saved Hollywood

 

 

Happy Death Day 2U

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Tree thought she had broken the loop that forced her to relive the same day (and her death) over and over again. She thought she had defeated her killer. Yet that brief happiness is interrupted when a series of events throw her into another time loop. This time it’s different. She will not only have to keep dying and reliving the same day, but now she will also have to make an impossible decision that could change the rest of her life.

Writer and director Christopher Landon (Happy Death Day, Paranormal Activity 3) is at it again with this sci-fi/horror/slasher/comedy mashup. This sequel picks up almost immediately where the first film left off. Poor Tree didn’t even get a full day to enjoy being out of her time loop. Not only does she get stuck in a time loop again, but she is accidentally thrown into an entirely different timeline. It’s up to Tree and her friends, none of whom remember her, to stop the loop. The more difficult decision is whether she will stay in this timeline or go back to her own.

The first film was more of a straightforward slasher-comedy, while this film incorporates even more genres. The most obvious and most important addition is the sci-fi element. In Happy Death Day the film focused on figuring out who the baby face killer was, but in Happy Death Day 2U the focus is on stopping the loop by more scientific means. While some fans of the first film may be disappointed by this change, I think it is brilliant. In a film franchise where the entire premise has to do with reliving the same day over and over, it is important to keep the story fresh so audiences don’t feel like they are watching the same film for the second time in a row. The shift to the sci-fi aspect allows the filmmakers to focus on a new set of characters and a new set of problems. Without giving too much away, this change allowed the film to have an emotional depth that wasn’t present in the first film. Not only do we get to know Tree and other vital characters on a deeper level, but we also watch as Tree is faced with an impossible decision. It tugs at the heartstrings, while still giving plenty of opportunity for humor in the form of Tree’s many deaths and horror in the form of the baby face killer (albeit less horror and baby face than we saw in the previous film).

As a result of the change in tone with the sequel, the performances in Happy Death Day 2U are also much more emotionally driven. Jessica Rothe (Happy Death Day, Forever My Girl) is absolutely dazzling as Tree. What makes Rothe such a joy to watch is how well she balances humor with the more heartfelt moments. She is really hilarious, especially with her reaction to reliving the same day and her many deaths, but this film allows the audience to see a side of Tree we haven’t seen before. Tree is a character I would love to see more of, and Rothe is perfect in the role. Israel Broussard (Happy Death Day, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before) is also enjoyable to watch as Carter. There is something about Broussard and his portrayal of Carter that is instantly endearing and lovable, and his chemistry with Rothe is fantastic. Honorable mention goes to two actors who bring a lot of comedic relief to the film and their roles: Phi Vu (Happy Death Day, Logan) as Ryan and Rachel Matthews (Happy Death Day) as Danielle.

This PG-13 franchise does a really good job of conveying gore without actually showing anything graphic. With each time Tree dies, the death happens just out of sight or the audience isn’t shown the exact moment of her death, but we see when she wakes up and restarts the day. For example, when Tree dies from electrocution, she wakes up when the day restarts to her hair standing up on end. In another scene Tree plummets to her death. We hear the splat and see others react to the carnage, but it happens just out of frame. This method allows Happy Death Day 2U to have a lot of death to appease older audiences while still keeping a low MPAA rating so more moviegoers can enjoy the film.

Happy Death Day 2U has all the fun of the first film while also incorporating new genres and more depth. Considering this is now one of two films that involves reliving the same day on repeat, the filmmakers manage to keep the plot fresh by adding new danger, new twists, and new drama. There will likely be some moviegoers who will not enjoy the subtle genre changes from the first film, but I for one think these changes are a brilliant way to breathe new life to the story. It makes me interested to see what could be done with a third film, and Rothe’s performance makes me want to see much more of Tree. This entertaining and emotionally driven genre-bending flick is one you can even watch with your non-horror loving friends and family.

OVERALL RATING: 8/10

(I saw the first film, but didn’t ever review it. If I did I would have also given it an 8/10)