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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

Cold Pursuit

Liam Neeson has become a reliable cinematic mainstay. Whenever he appears you know you’ll enjoy watching as he rarely chooses dud projects. Whilst a few haven’t been memorable, they’ve at least entertained viewers for the duration of the movie experience. Neeson’s stoic presence has lifted many films from their wafer thin premise. ‘Cold Pursuit’ is another in this style with its cool visual look matching Neeson’s steely gaze and icy demeanour.

Working as a snowplough driver in the Rocky Mountains, Nelson (Liam Neeson) is a respected member of the community. After being awarded its ‘Citizen of the Year’, his world is shattered when his son is murdered in strange circumstances. The trail of clues leads to dangerous drug baron Viking (Tom Bateman). Pushing his ‘nice guy persona’ into the shadows, only vengeance drives Nelson as he seeks to destroy those who have wrecked his family.

‘Cold Pursuit’ is an occasionally awkward mix of crime drama and black humour. The tale of revenge and sorrow lends itself to several serious situations, although these are lessened by vaguely comedic moments. Neeson has always chosen off-kilter projects and ‘Cold Pursuit’ matches the unusual story-telling archetype he clearly enjoys. He gives a dependable performance with his character slowly riding the cycle of revenge. Each kill strips away the man he once was with retribution the only nourishment for his hollow heart.

‘Cold Pursuit’ really hits goals with striking cinematography. The snow-scapes in which Nelson reside loom large over the wayward characters. The pure white snow is the opposite of the black, shady dealings in which all are involved. Tom Bateman as Viking exudes required menace as the evil gangster even if he over-plays his role a little. The music score is also a plus with silence just as important as the spoken word.

A mid-range Liam Neeson movie, ‘Cold Pursuit’ does provide captivating viewing. It has pacing issues and needed more re-writing in order to tighten its narrative. Overall it’s a general solid movie with Neeson’s reliability as a performer still intact.

Rating out of 10: 6