Updated: Aug 21, 2019
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
“HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD copy; 2019; PG-13 for violence, profanity, sexual material and thematic elements; streaming via Amazon Video/Prime, FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play, iTunes (4K) , Vudu (4K), YouTube
Best extra: A collection of super-shorts
IT’S NO shock “Happy Death Day,” the unexpected hit of fall 2017, gets a sequel. That it’s good is the surprise.
“Happy Death Day 2U” is a little less slasher and a lot more weird. Producer Jason Blum returns with director/now co-writer Scott Lobdell. The cast – again – features Jessica Rothe (Tree Gelbman), Israel Broussard (Carter Davis), Phi Vu (Ryan Phan), Rachel Matthews (Danielle Bouseman) and nearly everyone else from the first film with a few newcomers. Rothe continues to be a knockout combining physical comedy and more subtle action. Chemistry between Tree and Carter still sizzles.
Tree’s repeating death-loop has ended, but Carter’s roommate Ryan picks it up. Killer Babyface murders him only for him to awaken to face the same day again, just like Tree in the first film. Terrified, he reveals this to Tree and Carter, who understand the “curse” isn't done with them. Still, they wonder – Is this a supernatural situation or not? An investigation by the trio finds the experimental quantum reactor Ryan’s been working on with fellow science students Samar (Suraj Sharma) and Dre (Sarah Yarkin) has created a multi-dimensional time loop. Wow – have we wandered into a big screen episode of “The Big Bang Theory” or another superhero film?
Not exactly. Plot explanations slow the pace at first as the collegiate five work out how the reactor created the problem. They’d love to be able to fix it; they believe they can – but Dean Bronson (Steve Zissis) storms in to disconnect the project, which has been blowing electrical circuits throughout the campus. Seems like the only way to get to the heart of the issue is for Tree to jump back into her death loop and become a genius scientist. Complications ensue as we know they must.
Enter The Men in Black as the end credits roll.
“Happy Death Day 2U” is another exclusive Universal Studios 4K/HDR release for the streaming sites. It has a more robust visual experience compared to the very good Blu-ray 1080p transfer (2.39:1 aspect ratio) if you can get past the buffering and outages. Colors are saturated on both formats. It looks natural and solid throughout, while highlights are most intense during the quantum reactor scenes. Shadows are deeper and blacker throughout.
Sourced from digital cameras and mastered in 2K, the upconverted 4K has solid sharpness and clarity, but its missing the finest facial details we've come to expect with the format. It's most evident on setups 80-inches are larger, more likely a product of the streaming site reducing the video bit rate to get it to your home. The onscreen resolution of the 4K and Blu-ray is practically a dead heat, and you'll find more satisfaction with a disc purchase.
There is no Dolby Atmos, but the Dolby Digital six-channel soundtrack (streaming) and DTS-HD Master Audio (Blu-ray) deliver clear dialogue and effects. Front speakers get the most workout, but ambient and special effects bounce around the room with a discernable and well-balanced blend of dialogue, effects and music. Bear McCreary returns to compose more original music, while pop tunes flavor the mix: Lizzo’s creepy version of “Stayin’ Alive,” “La Bamba,” the classical “Flower Duet” and “Carmina Burana,” Paramore’s “Hard Times,” and James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful.”
There’s a gag reel and deleted scene, but the three featurettes – “The Never-ending Birthday,” “Web of Love: Tree’s Nightmare,” and “Multiverse 101” – are so short, you can miss them in a blink.
Landon, also a comic book writer, had the second movie planned when the first was released near Halloween. “Happy Death Day 2U” debuted in February 2019, traditionally one of the worst months for movie premiers. He's got a plot for a third film, but Universal may be dragging its feet. The film grossed $64.2 million worldwide against a production budget of $9 million. That’s a hefty profit, but the studio expected more.
“Happy Death Day 2U” isn't as fresh as its predecessor, but still earns points for originality and Rothe's outstanding performance. There are enough laughs to keep us interested. The message is clearly the same: You can be a better person, so why not go for it? Not bad for a science/slasher flick.
- Kay Reynolds and Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer