Happy Death Day 2 U

The horror movie genre has been notorious for churning out endless sequels. If you’re onto a good money-making thing you may as well stick to it as Hollywood loves to do. ‘Friday the 13th, ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’, ‘Halloween’ and countless others have spawned ongoing series spanning decades. Whilst only the second entry in its series, ‘Happy Death Day 2U’ gleefully plunges the knife into the well of money opportunities. Whether more filthy lucre will sprout from it is another question as like others in the field, it shows no sign of stopping.

Two years after repeating a day of non-stop death via a time-loop, Theresa (Jessica Rothe) faces the same quagmire. Somehow experiencing the same day and same death all over again, she is further horrified when her friends begin to be murdered. Forced to face another deadly masked killer, Theresa determines to break free of the horrid time-warp and prevent her friends from being ensnared in the clutches of evil’s vile embrace.

‘Happy Death Day 2U’ is basically a horror version of the comedy film ‘Groundhog Day’. Instead of laughs there’s meant to be terror although this sequel considerably ups the mirth factor. This is why it fails to generate much excitement as Christopher Landon’s direction seems intent on providing a rib-tickling time amidst the killings. Occasionally it works but it pushes the series’ premise too far off the beaten track. To its credit the script carries more emotional weight than the first although the comedy factor is in the way of most gains.

The series’ biggest plus is Rothe, a fine actress willing to go the extra mile. She can carry the required tonal shifts well and dives into her scenes with gusto. Her co-stars aren’t particularly memorable as they are there to react rather than instigate events. The pacing lacks a sense of urgency which further derails the atmosphere the film needs.

Not much more can be said about ‘Happy Death Day 2U’ as it dishes up mediocre thrills with the enthusiasm of a student at a double maths lesson. The cast are generally competent and the scares, when they arise, are effectively handled. A third outing for this low-budget series will likely be made although the looming unease will mainly be handing over money to see another threadbare sequel.

Rating out of 10: 5

Escape Room

For centuries, mazes have fascinated people. In today’s terms, walking a maze is like taking a ‘journey’. Where will the maze lead to? What is around the corner? How will I get out? Such a simple premise offers a myriad of questions with the suspense of not knowing where the path will go adding to the fun. ‘Escape Room’ makes much of this with a taut script successfully conjuring the apprehension one feels when facing the unknown.

Six strangers, including Zoey (Taylor Russell), Ben (Logan Miller) and Jason (Jay Ellis), meet in peculiar circumstances. Given mysterious black boxes with tickets to an escape room with the chance of winning money, the would-be contestants take up the challenge. Locked in several rooms that swiftly reveal their sinister nature, the group face peril. Using their wits to survive, they must wrestle free of their fate and discover the mastermind behind the deadly rooms.

Directed by Adam Robitel, ‘Escape Room’ mostly makes good use of its intriguing premise. With escape rooms and mazes surging in popularity in the recent era, the film gives a scary sheen to the analytical past-time. Unlike countless other horror/thriller films where grisly gore becomes its reason for being, ‘Escape Room’ has flair with characters forced to use their brains and partake in very dangerous team-work. This enables genuine tension with the atmosphere going up a notch every time the participants enter a newer and deadlier room.

Although the characters could have been more sympathetic, the cast successfully convey the terror they feel. ‘Escape Room’ is more a suspense film than horror with the writer’s imagination in creating each new vile scenario ghoulishly admirable. The production design equals the script’s imaginative quirks with supposedly simple sets offering a myriad of lethal exits. Occasionally the plot follows a predictable path but provides several surprises to keep viewers guessing.

‘Escape Room’ is a competent entry in the genre with twists arriving at break-neck speed. It’s doubtful it will prevent people from wanting to navigate such investigative games as their allure can be palatable. What’s not in doubt is cinema will follow any trends with the maze to box office dollars a temptation difficult to resist.

Rating out of 10: 6