Test Fest Adelaide

Friday the 11th the Victoria Theatre transformed into a pop-up cinema for Adelaide’s new film festival, Test-Fest. 2019 is the first year of this festival which allows filmmakers to come and receive feedback on their works-in-progress. 

The Victoria Theatre is a mixture between a haunted Gothic setting and a dystopian hideout. Cold concrete floors were decorated with small tables and chairs, with wooden bleachers and wooden seats off to the side. Roof scaffolding lay open to the elements. Dim lights hanging from a single cord. 

Free food. Music. A pop up bar. Film. All the ingredients for a good night. 

People milled about, drinking, talking, watching. Children ran around the open space, flopping down on beanbags becoming distracted by short films playing on two large flat screen televisions in the corner of the theatre.

All of these shorts have been entered in film festivals and showcase the talent Australia has on offer. Test-Fest provided the opportunity for the average Adelaidean to see what’s been created over the past couple of years. Everything from animation about a nine-year-old girl who enters the world of sumo wrestling, a claymation adaptation of Frankenstein, and an examination of lost love with the recurring motif of rock, paper, scissors.    

Sitting in a beanbag as gracefully as one can sit on a beanbag, I watched Australian short after short, marvelling at the sheer talent and creativity we have. Now I can say I have officially cried in three movies: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Les Miserables and The Sandpit, by Matt Pearson, a seven-minute film about a girl finding rocks in a sandpit. 

On the main screen films which are still being workshopped were played. They were broken up by twenty- minute intervals to allow the audience the opportunity to give feedback through a short answer survey. Volunteers in high-vis vests walked around handing out clipboards and pens. As someone who is well versed in literary metaphors and techniques, visual and filmic techniques are a challenge for me to wrap my head around. Although this didn’t matter when getting feedback. Directors guided their viewers with the questions surrounding what they were most concerned about asking about everything from ‘was the music distracting’ to ‘what do you think about my main character?’

It was like an extended focus group, a chance for attendees to voice their views and for filmmakers to test their work. A safe space to show friends and family what they have been working on.

Test-Fest gave burgeoning filmmakers a chance to hear from their audiences, with the aim of “demystifying the filmmaking process” before the final product is revealed. It’s peering back to the curtain and having a peek into the inner workings of an artist’s mind, seeing the role of the director and their filmmaking process, to witness the work that goes into the creation of film. 

The suburban Gothic film, Carrie is Great by Bryce Kraehenbuehl, Alex Salkicevic and Lauren Koopowitz and the Cormac McCarthy-esque, and On The Road to Old Man’s Town by Andrew Ilicic are definitely some new Australian projects that are worth keeping an eye out for. 

Attending Test-Fest opened my eyes to the amount of local, South Australian talent there is, and allowed attendees to have an opportunity to give opinions and gain an insight into the often confusing and mystifying filmmaking process. It was definitely a night to remember and a showcase of our best talent.

 


For more information on Test Fest and to keep up with any future events check out their website or follow them via Facebook.

Review by Georgina Banfield

Header image: Test Fest Adelaide

Kingdom of Heaven (Director’s Cut) (2005)

Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven is set in the twelfth century and follows the story of Balian (played by Orlando Bloom), loosely based on Balian of Ibelin, a crusader nobleman who lived from approximately 1143 to 1193 CE.

In the film, Balian leaves his job as a blacksmith in France in 1184 CE and goes to help the Kingdom of Jerusalem (a crusader state created in 1099 CE after the First Crusade) defend itself against Saladin, the Ayyubid Muslim Sultan.

If you haven’t seen the film before, you may think that it beats you around the head with religion, but it doesn’t. There are other elements of it that make it interesting and compelling. These include family, friendship, and politics. I think Kingdom of Heaven has a strong Game of Thrones vibe to it.

The film premiered in May 2005 and was met with mixed reviews. But director Ridley Scott disliked the theatrical cut. Before the film’s release, studio executives ordered him to cut the film down by forty-five minutes, which inevitably streamlined its narrative and placed a spotlight on Balian. Neither of these were what Scott had intended.

A few months after theatrical version was released, a director’s cut of Kingdom of Heaven was released. There’s more of a focus on all the characters, not just Balian. The narrative is also more complex and has deeper meanings to it, like the bond between a mother’s love for her children, as displayed by Princess Sibylla’s (Eva Green) love for her son.

Many people agree that the director’s cut is far better than the original theatrical version. Reviewer James Berardinelli even says that “there’s no reason for anyone to watch the […] theatrical edition” since the director’s cut has been made available. I agree with Berardinelli. The director’s cut should be version of Kingdom of Heaven that people watch.

Like all films, the director’s cut of Kingdom of Heaven isn’t perfect. Despite having more depth and scope than the theatrical version, it can be slow at times.

The cinematography and the film’s overall production design is spectacular. Kingdom of Heaven was filmed entirely on location in Morroco and Spain. The landscapes that feature in the film mirror that of France and Jerusalem (the primary settings of the film) and seem to not have aged at all since the twelfth century. The props and costumes appear authentic, almost as if they were plucked right from the twelfth century. All this completes the ‘feel’ of the film.

Despite this, Kingdom of Heaven’s flaws hold it down. I want to like it, but it didn’t quite hit the mark in the end. But the director’s cut is still superior to the theatrical version.

I give Kingdom of Heaven three out of five.


Words by Callum J. Jones

 

References

Balian of Ibelin – A Biography, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7CnJDfdLayA&gt;.

Kingdom of Jerusalem, <https://historica.fandom.com/wiki/Kingdom_of_Jerusalem&gt;.

Kingdom of Heaven (Director’s Cut) (United States/United Kingdom/Spain/Germany, 2005), <http://www.reelviews.net/reelviews/kingdom-of-heaven-director-s-cut&gt;.

 

 

Review: Booksmart

Booksmart follows Molly and Amy, best friends on the cusp of graduating high school, who realise they’ve almost completely let the high school party experience pass them by. The night before graduation they have two goals: 1) go to a rager hosted by one of their classmates and 2) get Amy to kiss the girl she’s been crushing on.

 
Booksmart is a ridiculous, fun, smart romp reminiscent of Superbad and its kin. The tropes are familiar: an awkward nerd with a crush and a highly-strung future leader with no time for dating, go out and make a set of poorly planned decisions and things go awry very quickly. Unlike its predecessors, Booksmart doesn’t have hyper-masculine, dirty boy humour, despite sex being an important component of Amy’s character development. It felt revolutionary to watch this kind of film without endless dick imagery or stupid dildo jokes. The topic of female masturbation is broached, but it’s done in a sensitive and funny way, without the meanness or sense of shame of other comedies like this. Female friendship is a cornerstone of the film and much of the driving force behind its comedy. The film goes out to break much of the stereotypes surrounding female friendships: Molly and Amy are sex-positive (there’s a scene where the two of them watch lesbian porn in the back of a Lyft that made me laugh and cringe in equal measure), they care about each other, and most importantly the emotional crux of the film, their big fight, is not about a boy they’re both trying to sleep with.

 
I enjoyed Molly as a character and her growth was both funny and heartwarming, but seeing a character like Amy is breath of fresh air. Amy is an out lesbian who is crushing on a girl she’s not sure is interested in other girls. It was so nice to see a queer character who was not struggling with her sexuality and her own identity but with the very teenage experience of having a crush on someone. There was also a sex scene between Amy and another girl that wasn’t hypersexualised but awkward and kind of sweet and very funny. Amy is the kind of lesbian storytelling we need more of – her queerness isn’t ignored but it’s also not the only aspect of her personality.

 
The only criticism I have of this film is the relationship between Ms Fine, the girl’s teacher, and a student who has repeated the seventh grade three times. Technically the student was twenty and of legal age and Ms. Fine was a young teacher, but the relationship still sat wrongly on what was otherwise a sharply feminist film. Reducing a comedy actor Jessica Williams, who played Miss Fine, to a lonely teacher who sleeps with a student seems like a waste of talent and opportunity.

 
I really enjoyed this film and I’d recommend it to anyone. Hopefully it’s the first of many female-led coming-of-age movies.

 


Words by Riana Kinlough

5 stars

Review: Yesterday

A world without The Beatles.

A horrifying thought for sure. What if John, Paul, George, and Ringo never found their calling? What would today look like without the musical progression of these “long-haired louts”? I can’t imagine what the world would be like but it would certainly be nothing like today.

The director’s image of modern life without The Beatles doesn’t go in depth about the repercussions—which would be difficult to do considering how big an influence they were on many musicians, amateur and elite, not to mention creatives in all streams, and the everyman. Maybe I’m talking them up a bit much, but you have to remember that this group was a rock and roll revolution for their time.1 Dany Boyle (Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire) did however show that the world would be incomprehensibly different by removing some of the biggest staples of Modernity.

In a world much like our own, Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) finds himself being had on by all of his friends, playing a Beatles classic ‘Yesterday’ and being praised for his inventive genius. And what would any reasonable man do in his situation? He agonises over whether he should take credit for the music, not once considering keeping it to himself. And so, Jack’s journey begins, along with his manager Ellie (Lily James) and his unlikely supporter Ed Sheeran. But fame has never been Jack’s dream and it soon becomes too much. He’s losing Ellie and if Ellie is the cost of fame, who would want to be famous?

Patel is well suited to playing Malik, the down and out musician and his pained facial expressions really make the character authentic. Malik’s struggles as a musician quickly turn around with a little help from his friends and an impressive exercise in memory, recalling every word to songs such as ‘Strawberry Fields” and “Eleanor Rigby” and revealing them to the world.

A sweet British film, Yesterday reminds us of the power and influence of music, while also showing us a side to Ed I still don’t believe. Staying reasonably true to the music minus the butchering of ‘Hey Jude’ (thanks Ed) and a change of pace, the film is a fun response to The Beatles legacy and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a easy-going and fun rom-com.

 


3.5 stars.

Words by Kayla Gaskell

Review: Men in Black: International

The 2010s has been a golden age for reboots of famous film franchises with Men in Black: International, the fourth in the series following this trend. Gone are Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as leads, replaced now by Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson. Alongside Hemsworth and Thompson, Liam Neeson and Emma Thompson also star here. With these stars and an already quirky take on aliens this should a recipe for success. However, a quite predictable plot and underusing of some characters does dampen the experience.
Apart from a couple of characters and references, the first three films in the series are almost completely disregarded. This makes this a totally new film, giving it an opportunity to start anew. As the title suggests, this focuses a lot on the international sector of the Men in Black. From London to Marrakesh, this film expands the Men in Black universe and how they operate within it. To see outside of the United States was a breath of fresh air, yet didn’t provide enough substance to the plot.
Of all the actors, Chris Hemsworth is by far the one with the most amount of attention. His character, H, is handsome, yet dim-witted at times. H’s dimwittedness, attractiveness and interesting romantic history are both funny and cringy. He also wears pink pants in here, a sight worth seeing for Hemsworth fans. Some of this humour is aided by M, played by Tessa Thompson. M is nothing in contrast to H; she is attractive and intelligent. The banter between H and M provides some of the funniest moments in the film. It should be noted that Chris Hemsworth’s accent did take away from the experience. He appeared to try sound more British, yet it came out as a hybrid between American and Australian.
As for other characters, Liam Neeson’s character, High T, is by far though the best character in the film. His acting was phenomenal and the way. The aliens who populate the world too are quirky, much like the ones from previous films in the series. Perhaps the one that stands out the most is Pawny, an alien who is part of a chess set. He’s both quirky and loves to take a poke at H.
The acting and characters are sadly dampened by a plot that feels worn out in this era of cinema: trying to save the world. The plot felt way too predictable and unbelievable at times. Some of the almost invincible characters just seemed to be defeated so easily, a factor that did annoy me. There were some moments in the film’s narrative too which I knew the endings to almost immediately. I don’t wish to mention them as I don’t wish to spoil the movie for anyone. Liam Neeson also felt underused. It’s a shame as his character had a lot of great build-up, yet didn’t receive enough screen time. Even just a minute more would have been sufficient.
Men in Black: International is an interesting film. It has a lot of quirky humour and is a major departure from the other films in the series. Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson do a great job and Liam Neeson is phenomenal. However, certain aspects and the predictability of the plot did dampen the experience for me. Saying that though, if you want to see Chris Hemsworth in pink pants and some quirky aliens, check this film out. There is some fun to find here. Men in Black: International is in cinemas now.


Words by Cameron Lowe
3/5

Review: Wild Rose

Wild Rose follows Glaswegian Rose-Lynn Harlan on her journey to become a country star, despite being recently released from prison and being a single mother to two young children. This is a classic rags to riches narrative that country music is so fond of. Played by Jesse Buckley, Rose-Lynn is a bright disaster of a person – she’s talented but can’t seem to make her big break and doesn’t seem capable of taking on her own responsibilities, including caring for her children. The odds are stacked against her and we spend much of the film rooting for her.

 
Despite country music and Rose-Lynn’s deep love for the genre – she even has ‘three cords and the truth’ tattooed on her forearm – the film doesn’t take many pains to flesh that relationship out. Rose-Lynn doesn’t write her own music, or play guitar, or even seemingly to have an attachment to a specific musician. Country has a deep tradition of heartache and you could draw a parallel between the lives of Hank Williams and Rose-Lynn. Williams was the granddaddy of country and damaged many of his relationships with his mother, estranged wife, and his sobriety, in order to play at the Nashville Opry stage. Rose-Lynn has much of the same ambition and her goal throughout was to make it to Nashville, and when she succeeds she even sneaks onto the Opry stage and sings a song before being kicked out. However, because the film doesn’t discuss or show the importance of Nashville to stars like Hank Williams or Dolly Parton, the moment feels less than emphatic, lost in translation.

 
The same could be said of the relationships closer to Rose-Lynn’s day to day life. Her relationship with her children always feels slightly estranged, even when the film makes a turn and she makes more of an effort to know them. In part this is due to a lack of characterisation and history. We never really know very much about the children, other than they’re something tying Rose-Lynn to Scotland, stopping her from her pursuing her dreams full-time. We also never really understand the situation that saw Rose-Lynn with two young children under the age of ten. Rose-Lynn also has a boyfriend who seems to disappear entirely before the third-act and doesn’t offer much at all in the way narratively.

 
The richest relationships Rose-Lynn has are between the woman she cleans for and her own mother. Rose-Lynn’s mother wants her to settle down and take responsibility for herself and her children, while her boss is the only person actively encouraging her to pursue her country career. The two women are opposing forces in the singer’s life, and ultimately she decides to try and find a middle ground.

 
Despite the wobbly characterisation, Wild Rose is home to some very funny, sweet moments. Jesse Buckley brings a lot of brightness and spunk to Rose-Lynn and sings very sweetly. Mostly, Wild Rose made me want to listen to Dolly Parton’s ‘9 to 5’ at volume and dance around my room. I’d recommend this film if you’re looking for some light fun and some country heartache.

 


Words by Riana Kinlough
3/5

The Hustle

I was lucky enough to be able to attend the premier of the latest Hollywood hit starring Rebel Wilson and Anne Hathaway on its first showing in Adelaide. I walked out with a smile on my face and a need for more popcorn.
The Hustle is funny and light-hearted while keeping the audience caring about the characters. This delightful comedy is focused around two very different and intelligent women and their wonderful dynamic as an unlikely pair of con women. Anne Hathaway, playing an elegant French woman named Josephine Chesterfield, works charmingly well alongside Rebel Wilson, who plays a pretty bogan Australian woman named Penny Rust. The director, Chris Addison, has decided to shake up the classic con-man movie and mix in undertones of ‘this town ain’t big enough for the both of us’ western with a timeless teacher-student dynamic. Watching these two strong women in these vibrant roles and work together to con unsuspecting rich men really captures a hearty comedy based on an old classic.
I was swept up in Rebel Wilson’s signature Australian humour and the beauty and elegance of Anne Hathaway. Set in a luxurious part of France with many extravagant sets, The Hustle will have you giggling today and have you dreaming of diamonds the next. The set and scenes were amazing, boasting of decadence and class.
The film is one that the whole family can enjoy. Rated PG, the themes are easy-going and the humour ranges from implied innuendoes to physical slapstick. If you’re looking for a fun and witty comedy, I would recommend taking some friends to see this movie for a good night out!
Million-dollar views with million-dollar actresses, this movie didn’t fail to live up to its hype.
Four stars from me!

 


Words by Sarah Ingham

Avengers: Endgame

Spoiler Warning! This review discusses some things some readers may want to avoid knowing before seeing the film.

Marvel have saved some of the best for last. Infinity War was over-populated, underwhelming, and seemed designed purely to set up the second half of the duology. Endgame had a lot resting on its shouldering and, I’m happy to report, does a tremendous job of lifting its burden.
Marvel have charged the script for Endgame to Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus; the same duo who produced Captain America: Winter Soldier, easily one of Marvel’s best additions to its cinematic universe. Infinity War saw half of the population dusted by Thanos, which left the crop of Avengers nicely thinned out. Without the over-crowded cast of Infinity War, Endgame is able to give the remaining characters real emotional arcs and a cohesive storyline that is satisfying and not completely disorientating. For the most part, the original Avengers are the focus of this film. By and large the film treats their more experienced heroes with respect and love because for many of them, Endgame is their goodbye.
For all the things this film does right (and there is a large list), it also has some flaws. There’s a recurring fat joke – a type of nasty humour I thought Marvel had grown out of, especially given said character’s weight gain is due to a severe case of PTSD. Marvel also promised Endgame would be the film to introduce queer representation into the cinematic universe: a representation that comes in the form of a side character relevant to only one scene, which could be easily cut out for distribution in China. It’s hardly the bare minimum and it shows.
More specifically, I found the final resolution of Black Widow eye-roll inducing. She and Clint Barton, stuck in a self-destructive spiral after the loss of his wife and children, are sent to re-retrieve the Soul Stone. As we know from Thanos and Gamora in Infinity War, a soul must be swapped in order to access the stone. Clint and Natasha argue over who gets to self-sacrifice, but it is ultimately Black Widow who is traded. The suicidal desire to throw herself off a cliff stems from no discernible source, except it would mean that Clint could return to his family and also continue to feel like an angry matyr after the death of his closest friend. While not exactly the trope of an excellent woman sacrificing so a man may better himself, it is close enough for me to be completely bored by it. Although this end shouldn’t be a surprise – the cinematic universe has never known what to do with Black Widow. It is worth mentioning the newly announced Black Widow movie – a prequel that comes ten years after her first appearance and long after the other Avengers received their own individual films. It’s a strange move from Marvel that feels like they were anticipating the backlash from the hero’s death and want to stave off most of the criticism. Given the success of Captain Marvel you could reserve a small allowance of optimism, although Black Widow’s cinematic history is not hopeful.
Something similar could be said of Thor’s storyline in this movie. The Asguardian did much of the heavy lifting emotionally in the previous movie and having failed at his attempt to stop Thanos, it’s as though the writers had no clear idea what to do with his emotional arc from there. However, his story has more saving grace than Natasha’s and it seems as though Marvel will continue to feature the God of Thunder in other films.
That said, Endgame is full of moments of pure joy – there was a scene with a certain shield-wielding captain and a certain unliftable hammer that had the audience in my screening squealing with absolute glee. With more of an emotional centre, the fights in this film are more meaningful and relate to the plot, instead of mindlessly filling run time the way they did in Infinity War. This is also a tear-jerker, particularly if you’re a Marvel die-hard. I won’t say much more, for the sake of spoilers. I had a grand time watching Endgame and I would thoroughly recommend going to see it.


Words by Riana Kinlough

4/5 stars

Picture property of Marvel.

 

 

Us

The opening of Jordan Peele’s sophomore horror film Us, opens with a young Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) wandering away from her bickering parents on a coastal boardwalk into a house of mirrors, only to find her reflection come to life. As an adult with a husband and two kids, Adelaide returns to the site of her past trauma to find the same demons fully grown and very bloodthirsty.
Peele portrays a family on holiday perfectly. Gabe Wilson (Winston Duke), the father, is full of Dad jokes. The children, Zora Wilson (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason Wilson (Evan Alex) are fun to watch bickering with each other and Gabe. Their family dynamic brings a light element to a film that plays with some very dark concepts. There’s a scene where Adelaide and Gabe are arguing with Zora about who gets to drive the family car by debating who has the highest kill count that had me cracking up in the cinema. This might be a horror, but there’s still touches of Peele’s talent for comedy. Us has been casted extremely well and Peele knows what to do with the talent at his disposal, especially the lead actress. Nyong’o is a powerhouse performer and the duality and depth she brings to both nervous, traumatised Adelaide and her clever, bloodthirsty double is masterful – at times I forgot the two vastly different characters are played by the same actor. With any luck this will be the first of many films with Nyongo in the forefront.
The soundtrack deserves special mention. The film offers a curated list of absolute bangers by primarily black artists, including a menacing remix of Luniz’s ‘I Got Five On It’ which is a stroke of genius. It’s very refreshing to have a horror soundtrack that isn’t colonised by heavy eighties rock ballads or creepy children’s nursery rhymes.
Us preys on the familiar fear that our reflections have an interior life in the mirror and they hate us. Except the doubles, or Tethered as Adelaide’s double calls them, are not really reflections. They’re more like shadows, relegated to abandoned underground tunnels, attached to their other half who lives a normal life, they’re seemingly forced to enact an uncomfortable and joyless facsimile of their counterpart’s day to day actions. There’s a scene where we see Adelaide’s wandering off at the boardwalk from the perspective of her double and the Tethered performing the act of participating at a carnival without being at an actual carnival knocks you off kilter, makes your shiver.
Peele claims this film is not explicitly about racism like its older sibling, Academy Award winning Get Out was, but it’s hard to look past the way this film pushes back against racist and sexist conventions of the genre. Us doesn’t have the taste for dead black bodies or sexual violence the way other films in the genre do, rather it’s a much more high concept, intellectual horror. Peele has crafted a film full of clues that you could spend hours pulling apart quite happily, although it’s not always to the film’s advantage. @kyalbr on Twitter has an interesting thread about the way this film comments on the duality of black identity that I recommend you read after you see it. There is also definitely a statement about privilege – the Tethered are as human as their shadows but are abandoned, unloved and forced to live like animals. There’s nothing to stop them living full, normal human lives except for the circumstances of their birth. That said, I did find the world-building surrounding the Tethered to be a tiny bit under done, which made the underlying political allegory muddled. The doubles are tied to the other person wearing their face and are bound by the choices their doppelganger in the above makes, but they have their own names and personalities. They are also able to move independently of their counterpart, which for me raised a lot of questions about the mechanics of their connection and the need to free themselves of it. Us also never really gives an adequate explanation for the Tethered existence – Adelaide’s double offers her theory but it’s thin and perfunctory at best. As a result, the desire and motivations for the Tethered also seemed lacklustre and murky. It felt as though both of Lupita’s characters could have held the answer to this problem but neither of them wanted to give it up, so I left feeling slightly underwhelmed by the threat of the Tethered and by the big reveal at the end.
Overall, I would thoroughly recommend this film, even for those like me who are not great with scary movies. It’s funny, smart and chilling. Peele is a must-see director for me and this didn’t disappoint. I recommend taking a friend to see this with you as Peele leaves you with so much to think and talk about.

 


Words by Riana Kinlough
4/5 stars.

Happy Death Day 2U

Time-loop murders have never been so funny.
Happy Death Day 2U, as you may have guessed from the title, is a sequel to Christopher Landon’s critically acclaimed horror film Happy Death Day, a movie which combines the endless time-loop anomalies of Groundhog Day with the added element of a relentless serial killer. In the first movie, sassy sorority girl Theresa “Tree” Gelbman, portrayed by Jessica Rothe (La La Land, Mary + Jane) finds herself stuck in a time-loop, reliving Monday the 18th over and over as she is hunted down by a serial killer in a baby-face mask. But despite unmasking and defeating her killer, and finally making it to Tuesday the 19th, Tree once again finds herself stuck back in the time-loop once in Happy Death Day 2U, albeit with a sly twist or two.
Set immediately after the events of the first film, this sequel builds on the premise of the first movie and takes it to new territory. While the first movie is certainly a more traditional slasher affair, Happy Death Day 2U has more of a sci -i and comedic twist, that successfully mirrors and expands upon what we’ve already seen. We finally get an answer to how this time-loop is happening, and what may finally stop it, in the form of a science experiment gone wrong by overly-ambitious physics students, Ryan Phan (Phi Vu), Samar Ghosh (Suraj Sharma, Life of Pi) and Dre Morgan (Sarah Yarkin). Also back for the ride is love interest Carter Davis (Israel Broussard, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before) to help crack the case armed with only his boy-scout determination and heart-melting smile.
While the trailer for this film makes it look like a much more of a classic slasher movie, especially when produced by Blumhouse Productions, who made The Purge, I would instead classify this as a dark comedy. And as someone who usually avoids horror movies and gratuitous gore, I loved this. The characters are all immediately charming, the dialogue is witty and off-the-walls funny, and Rothe’s portrayal is spectacular. You can really see the frustration in every aspect of her performance at waking up to find that once again she’s stuck in this hellish nightmare. There are also just some really excellent visual moments, in the montages between deaths and waking up, that really give this film more of an artsy feel than typical teen slashers like Scream. But ultimately there are still enough jump scares to keep the slasher fans happy, this film continuing to do what it did in the first one and playing with audience expectations, giving you multiple fake-outs before finally revealing the killer.
Fans of the first movie will love this, but this sequel also works well on its own, thanks to the quick but informative recap near the start that sums up the first movie – which was helpful because I personally had not seen the first movie before this one. But I’d definitely recommend you watch Happy Death Day first just to get the most out of the sequel, so you can truly appreciate all the call-backs and mirroring that this film does so well.
Given the title, it shouldn’t be surprising that there’s a lot of death and violence in this movie, even if it’s rather cartoonish at times, but I would definitely issue a trigger warning for suicide due to a particular montage where Tree attempts to end each day on her own terms instead of waiting to be killed. It’s played for comedic affect, especially as she’s cheerily waving to the sky diving instructor as she drops out of a plane in a bikini, but just be aware of this part of the movie.
In summary, Happy Death Day 2U plays with genre expectations and delivers a thoroughly entertaining ride that will have you laughing one minute, covering your eyes in fear the next, and breaking your heart a moment later. It’s a roller coaster I’d be happy to live through, again and again and again.

 

4.5 stars.


 

Words by Simone Corletto.