Cheerleader Camp (1988)

Directed by John Quinn [Other horror films: The Secret Cellar (2003)]

Though certainly a flawed movie in some obvious ways, I found Cheerleader Camp (sometimes known as Bloody Pom Poms) an enjoyable experience, which I think is where this movie excels, though whether that makes up for the failures, well, that’s an interesting question.

The tone of this movie seems all over the place – the opening sequence is a dream, complete with a nice dream-like atmosphere and unique angles. It’s not a particularly silly dream either, but once the character awakens, and we meet the cast, there’s plenty of silly scenes to come. A few other dreams pop up throughout, to be sure, though I think they qualify as more ridiculous than they do atmospheric.

Betsy Russell made for an interesting lead. Russell (who later went on to play Jill Kramer in some of the Saw sequels) doesn’t really have a lot of agency herself, and generally reacts to her nightmares and the horrors surrounding her at camp without fighting back, but hey, she tries. I don’t know Lucinda Dickey (aside from this, she was only in five other films), but I did like her low-key style, and toward the finale, she became even more fun.

Leif Garrett (a singer that apparently my mother listened to in her youth) didn’t make much an impression. He did okay as a dickish character, I guess, but I preferred him in the underrated Peopletoys (better known as Devil Times Five). Lorie Griffin was fun as the sterotypically dumb blonde, Travis McKenna was extremely fun as the likable weighty boi, and George ‘Buck’ Flower (who has appeared in quite a handful of random horror films, such as Skeletons, Spontaneous Combustion, Pumpkinhead, and The Fog) got a bit more screen-time here than he usually does, and I enjoyed it. Lastly, while her character was #awful, Vickie Benson was decent.

I called the conclusion pretty early on (and to be fair, I have seen this movie before, but it had been so long that most of the story and mystery was unfamiliar to be), but it was still an okay surprise, especially since a few red herrings were strewn throughout. On the flipside, the kills here are mostly weak (I think the best one was a pair of scissors stabbed through someone’s mouth), but if you’re having fun already, that may not make too much of a difference.

Personally, I don’t think Cheerleader Camp is great, and I definitely think the movie had potential to be more than what it ended up. That said, I did find Cheerleader Camp a pretty fun movie, and while I do think it ultimately ends up below average, it’s not a movie I’d consider an altogether bad time at all.

6.5/10

Shiryô no wana (1988)

Directed by Toshiharu Ikeda [Other horror films: Ningyo densetsu (1984), Yudono-sanroku noroi mura (1984), Ikisudama (2001)]

While generally a movie that’s well-worth the watch, this Japanese film, commonly known under the title Evil Dead Trap, is a bit of a mixed bag. While no doubt there are plenty of fantastically gory sequences and decent slasher-esque fun, the problem is that the conclusion, and in fact, the final twenty minutes, just don’t do a lot for me.

Certainly ending fatigue is a problem that some movies suffer, but I’ve not seen a case quite as bad as this in a while. Honestly, if the last twenty minutes were cut and the story tied up around 85 minutes in, Evil Dead Trap might have felt a decent amount more consistent and thusly an easier film to recommend.

Aside from the failures of the conclusion, though, I think the movie has a decent amount to offer. The plot itself feels like an almost-more coherent Videodrome (and while we’re on potential inspirations, some of the quick-moving camera shots are reminiscent of The Evil Dead), and follows, for the most part, a typical slasher set-up in a beautifully-deserted factory.

Miyuki Ono made for a decently strong lead, and especially toward the end, I definitely got the sense that her character regretted getting her friends mixed up in such a deadly and dangerous scenario. The other women (Aya Katsuragi, Hitomi Kobayashi, and Eriko Nakagawa) all had their strong points. While of iffy character, Masahiko Abe was decent too.

The design of the killer is pretty top-notch, feeling a little bit like the Fisherman from I Know What You Did Last Summer. Of course, this movie is a lot more off-the-wall (which shows most during the finale), but at least the killers’ designs are in somewhat similar veins.

And related, the special effects are quality. Just in the first five minutes of the film, we see a woman get one of her eyeballs slit open, with liquid gushing out. We see another woman impaled multiple times, and another gets a blade swinging down, colliding with the side of her face. You have a few people shot with crossbows, to be sure, and someone else gets garroted, which wasn’t particularly violent, but when the movie went that direction, it could be plenty gruesome, and I think it stands out well for that.

I also have to give a shout-out to the fantastic music here. It’s as decent as you’d hope from an 80’s horror film, and combined with the often stylish shots this movie went with, Evil Dead Trip, despite the ending, had a beautifully 80’s vibe.

After seeing this again for the first time in what has to be ten years, I had a pretty decent time with Evil Dead Trap, but I can’t pretend that the ending isn’t a let-down (and not just a small let-down, but a pretty big flop). Without the shaky conclusion, this movie could have been a rather high-rated piece of foreign cinema, but as it is, it’s probably just around a high average.

7.5/10

Return of the Living Dead III (1993)

Directed by Brian Yuzna [Other horror films: Self Portrait in Brains (1978), Society (1989), Bride of Re-Animator (1990), Initiation: Silent Night, Deadly Night 4 (1990), Necronomicon (1993, segments ‘The Library’ & ‘Whispers’), The Dentist (1996), Progeny (1998), The Dentist 2 (1998), Faust: Love of the Damned (2000), Beyond Re-Animator (2003), Rottweiler (2004), Beneath Still Waters (2005), Amphibious 3D (2010)]

To quote from a Stephen King novel, Duma Key, ‘I never imagined it could get so bad, and God punishes us for what we can’t imagine.’ This is the punishment I never expected, and it came as quite a surprise to me.

Now let’s be clear – the second film of this series was far from stellar, and I personally thought it was a ways away from good. It was tepidly average at best. Here, they change things up a little, and take another route that I just couldn’t have cared about in the least, removing the comedic influences altogether and inserting a romance that’s doomed to fail because the young woman has become a zombie.

Removing the comedic influences was a bold choice, as The Return of the Living Dead, at least back in the early 1990’s, was probably one of the most popular zombie-comedies in existence, but it didn’t have to be a bad choice, and, if the film had gone in an entirely different direction, might even have been a heralded one. It’s also worth pointing out now that this film amazingly has the same rating as the second one on IMDb (or did at the time of this writing – it now looks like this film is rated 5.9/10 whereas the second is rated 5.7/10), and most of my friends in the horror community find the film moderately enjoyable.

All of that said, I found this movie absolutely and utterly horrible, and would never, under any circumstance, want to sit through this again.

The main problem is the romantic relationship between Melinda Clarke and J. Trevor Edmond. I was okay with them during the first scene, and when Edmond was breaking away from his father (played by Kent McCord), I was somewhat applauding them, but pretty much every moment after that, I just couldn’t stand them. As soon as, in pain and misery, Edmond brings Clarke back from the dead, and she starts eating people and becoming, you know, a zombie, and he sticks with her through it all (and I do mean all – far past the point where any reasonable person would have done so), I just wanted it to be over.

But the movie runs for an insane hour and 40 minutes instead of making it a more reasonable 70 minute film, which, while I wouldn’t have enjoyed it much more, at least would have felt more digestible.

The best character was played by Basil Wallace, who gets killed by Edmond’s idiocy, and later comes back as a zombie and helps out Edmond’s character despite the fact that the only reason he died was due to Edmond. None of that really mattered, as the final 15 minutes of this film was needlessly tacked on anyway, but there you go.

Oh, and Mike Moroff’s character was rather terrible also, but at least it fits in with the movie.

The special effects are decent, I’ll give it that. Though again, I don’t think that really matters as soon as Clarke’s character starts threading metal through her body and becoming a HARDCORE ZOMBIE CHICK. I cringed as soon as I saw that. It just looked awful, and it looked stupid, and I hated every second of it even more than the hate I had for it during the previous scenes.

Plenty of horror fans, as I’ve said, seem to enjoy this film, or at least enjoy it as much as they enjoyed the second film. Like I also said, the second film wasn’t great, but I just don’t get the love this one has. I don’t see it, and I don’t understand it, and I never want to cross paths with this movie again.

3/10

Yabu no naka no kuroneko (1968)

Directed by Kaneto Shindô [Other horror films: Onibaba (1964)]

Largely known as The Black Cat, Yabu no naka no kuroneko started off a decent movie, but I have to say that, after thirty minutes or so, I thought it began to drag, and it never really fully picked up steam again.

The film has a beautiful setting, taking place near a bamboo forest, and it looks quite stunning in black and white (which actually, on a side-note, surprised me, as many Japanese movies I’ve seen from the late 1960’s, and even before, have been in color), and the story has some emotional resonance to it also, to be sure.

For the first thirty minutes, showcasing the two women who are raped and killed, and then coming back as vengeful spirits to get revenge on all samurai, the movie was pretty solid. I thought they were going through their revenge pretty quickly, but that’s because their focus wasn’t there yet (a newly-appointed samurai who they both knew in their previous life), so that’s fine.

And the story that follows isn’t too bad, either, and like I said, even carried with it some emotional scenes, not to mention suspenseful scenes, such as the precursor to the final battle. I just personally found much of it boring beyond belief.

Kichiemon Nakamura was solid as the peasant farmer who, due to valor in battle, moved up to become a samurai. He was a good character, through-and-through, and him finding out that, after three years of being away from home due to his forced conscription, his house had burned down and family missing, was effective and saddening. I just wish I could say that either Nobuko Otowa (Onibaba) or Kiwako Taichi could have made more an emotional impact past the opening scene, but at least Kei Satô provided a little amusement.

Certainly this film had some moments that should have been a bit more of a tug on the heart, but they just didn’t hit me that way. Even toward the end, when Nakamura’s character figures out how to destroy the spirit of his mother, I just wasn’t getting that depressing vibe that you’d sort of expect out of the situation.

Regardless of that, though, the fact that I found the film boring is probably what’s most damning. Others may not see the film that way (many others, given the high rating this sports on IMDb), but I definitely did, and really, given the story rarely got me invested, I’ll have to admit to being disappointed with this Japanese film; it’s no doubt solid and moody at times, but I was just more bored than anything else.

5.5/10

The Green Slime (1968)

Directed by Kinji Fukasaku [Other horror films: Fukkatsu no hi (1980), Makai tenshô (1981), Chûshingura gaiden: Yotsuya kaidan (1994), Batoru rowaiaru (2000), Batoru rowaiaru II: Chinkonka (2003)]

Here’s another of the many movies that I’ve seen before but remember virtually nothing about. In this case, it’s possibly because there’s honestly not that much to remember about The Green Slime, and the whole of the movie just comes off generically and easy to let go.

It’s a cheap science-fiction/horror that has a few okay ideas, but it lacks the heart of other movies around the same time (such as the Italian Planet of the Vampires), and it comes across as somewhat soulless. The actors and actresses put in fine performances (I guess the three best being Robert Horton, Richard Jaeckel, and Luciana Paluzzi), but their characters are just boring tropes, and so is much of the movie.

As to what could have been done to make the movie better, I couldn’t say. While watching this, I was vividly reminded of Queen of Blood, a 1966 science-fiction/horror starring John Saxon. Queen of Blood was also boring and torturous to sit through, so the fact that I found this a reminder did not at all bode well. I was about to say that the only thing better about this film was that it was in color, but after double-checking that, Queen of Blood was also in color. Maybe in three years, I’ll get to thinking this was black and white too.

To be sure, The Green Slime has some fun ideas. I think the design of the green organisms are delightful in an early Doctor Who special effects way. If they had been featured in a Patrick Troughton-era Doctor Who story, I may even have liked it. But in an hour-and-a-half film, I was just bored, and found the movie somewhat lifeless and dull. 

But hey, it does have a funky song titled “The Green Slime” played at the beginning and the credits, so that’s cool.

5/10

Sora no daikaijû Radon (1956)

Directed by Ishirô Honda [Other horror films: Gojira (1954), Gojira no gyakushû (1955), Jû jin yuki otoko (1955), Godzilla: King of the Monsters! (1956), Godzilla (1957), Tokyo 1960 (1957), Bijo to ekitai ningen (1958), Daikaijû Baran (1958), Half Human: The Story of the Abominable Snowman (1958), Gigantis: The Fire Monster (1959), Mosura (1961), Varan the Unbelievable (1962), King Kong vs. Godzilla (1963), Matango (1963), Mosura tai Gojira (1964), Uchû daikaijû Dogora (1964), War-Gods of the Deep (1965), Furankenshutain tai chitei kaijû Baragon (1965), Furankenshutain no kaijû: Sanda tai Gaira (1966), Gezora, Ganime, Kameba: Kessen! Nankai no daikaijû (1970), Gojira tai Hedora (1971), Godzilla (1977), Godzilla 1985 (1985), Gojira vs. Desutoroiâ (1995), Gojira tai Megagirasu: Jî shômetsu sakusen (2000)]

Released beautifully in color, this Japanese monster movie, a follow-up of sorts to the Godzilla movies, is a pretty fun film, and while, much like the recently-seen The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, it isn’t my normal cup of tea, I can indulge in a sip or two.

What makes Rodan work is how the story unravels – it starts out with mysterious murders, and then it’s discovered those deaths are caused by a creature long-thought dead. And then we find out there are more of these creatures, and then there’s a giant egg, and then there’s two Rodans, so it’s all fun.

The design for Rodan isn’t the best, and the effects are questionable, especially since you can clearly scene the strings holding it up in multiple scenes, but I thought they were fun anyway. The fact that they flew at supersonic speed (and certainly had the sound effects to back that up) and caused utter destruction with their sound-waves was cool. One of the Rodans (or Rodani) just flew above a jeep, and utterly fucked it up, so when it happens to whole parts of the city, it’s hella fun.

I can’t say there’s much in the way of memorable characters here aside from maybe the lead, Kenji Sahara, and even he wasn’t amazing, but he did have cool hair. Really, in a movie like this, with so many moving parts, it’s not easy to have a plethora of important and interesting characters, so the fact that Sahara was about the only one that stuck out to me isn’t that much a deterrent.

Toho monster movies aren’t something I’ve a lot of experience with, but I’ve seen Rodan before, and it’s enough fun that I’m sure I’ll see it again. I don’t think it’s a special movie (though the color is smashing), but it is a decent one.

7/10

Uchû daikaijû Girara (1967)

Directed by Kazui Nihonmatsu [Other horror films: Konchû daisensô (1968)]

This Japanese film, commonly known as The X from Outer Space, is pretty poor in comparison to both other movies from the same production company (Shochiku) and other movies from the overall decade. This isn’t to say The X from Outer Space is terrible, but it is pretty unremarkable in most ways.

Shochiku isn’t a well-known name, but they made films such as Genocide (Konchû daisensô), The Living Skeleton (Kyûketsu dokuro-sen), and perhaps most famously, Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell (Kyuketsuki Gokemidoro). The best of these may well be Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell, but the other two are decent enough also. This one just can’t match any of those others at all. It’s as if they were trying to be Toho, and just failed miserably at it.

I think the first big problem is the fact that, until you get 48 minutes in or so, you can’t even tell this is going to be a giant rampaging monster movie. Personally, I thought the first half was decent (albeit in a rather cheesy, very 60’s type way), but the story of the astronauts going up into space could have been trimmed a bit in places. They could have gotten to the meat of the story quicker. The thing is, I don’t think there was that much meat to get to, which is probably why the first half was so dragged out.

Few of these characters are really worth much. In his own way, I did sort of like Shun’ya Wazaki as the straight-laced captain, and the idea that both Itoko Harada and Peggy Neal’s characters wanted to jump his bones was fine (though the cat fight I was hoping for never happened), but it doesn’t much go anywhere aside from a scene in the finale that was somewhat laughable. Otherwise, the only character in the film worth watching this for was the monster, called Guilala, which was just an overly goofy-looking lizard thing with bouncing antennas.

You get some funky music here rather often, but the first half of The X from Outer Space can come across as particularly dry, the quickness at which they can travel in space seems ridiculous, and the rather silly destruction of models – sorry, Japanese cities and power plants – wasn’t much what I’d call thrilling.

There are some fun space-based movies from the 1960’s, one of them being the Italian Planet of the Vampires (Terrore nello spazio), and there are some fun monster movies, such as Monster from a Prehistoric Planet (Daikyojû Gappa), but this tries to combine the two, and it really doesn’t work out. Stick with the other Shochiku movies instead, and go to this only if all else fails.

5/10

Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Directed by Zack Snyder [Other horror films: Army of the Dead (2021)]

Perhaps one of the best zombie movies of the 2000’s, this remake does a lot right. I happened to see this before I caught the original, and while I do like the original more, this version is no slouch, and it’s a solid ride throughout.

I think a large part of this is how some of the characters here develop, such as Michael Kelly’s CJ, who started off as an utter jackass, but then becomes quite a valuable team member. It’s accurate, actually, to say that most focal performances here are solid, from the lead actress, Sarah Polley, to the sarcastic rich asshole, Ty Burrell (who cracked me up throughout).

With such a large cast, I want to at least give kudos to most of these performances. R.D. Reid, Boyd Banks, Jayne Eastwood, Ving Rhames, Jake Weber, Mekhi Phifer, Kevin Zegers, and Michael Barry (who I randomly know from the Goosebumps two-parter The Werewolf of Fever Swamp) were all solid in their roles. I didn’t care much for Lindy Booth (though her actions may play a role in that) or Inna Korobkina, but it was nice seeing Ken Foree and Tom Savini here.

Being a big budget film, the special effects and cinematography were pretty top-notch. I don’t think I have a favorite scene of gore, but some of the shots early on in the film, showing the destruction of Sarah Polley’s suburban life, are shot beautifully. The chaos there is fantastic, and you have to love it. Also, throwing on what may be one of Johnny Cash’s best songs (“The Man Comes Around”) during the title sequence was a solid choice.

There are some scenes throughout the film that personally never did that much for me, such as the baby sequence, and, in relation, the degradation of Mekhi Phifer’s character, who was somewhat interesting at the beginning. It makes sense in context, but I still don’t care much for it. Lindy Booth (who, if she looks familiar, you may remember from Wrong Turn) plays a character who suffers multiple losses, but still ends up making a rather stupid mistake late into the film. Still, the parking garage scene in fun, and their escape attempt, with their decked out buses, was quality too.

Dawn of the Dead is a somewhat longer film (the version I went with was an hour and 50 minutes or so), but it doesn’t really drag at any point, even when some characters are thrown in who never really get screen-time (such as those played by Jayne Eastwood, R.D. Reid, and Kim Poirier). We get some time lapses of their life in the mall, which are equal parts amusing and realistic. And when the action comes around, it sure do come around, brahs.

This is a fun movie throughout, and there’s a reason why so many fans of the genre give it such props. Like I said, I don’t think it’s as good as the original Dawn of the Dead, but this is still a well-done zombie movie well worth the respect it’s gathered.

8.5/10

This is one of the films covered by Fight Evil’s podcast. If you want to hear Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss Dawn of the Dead, just look below.

Batoru rowaiaru (2000)

Directed by Kinji Fukasaku [Other horror films: The Green Slime (1968), Fukkatsu no hi (1980), Makai tenshô (1981), Chûshingura gaiden: Yotsuya kaidan (1994), Batoru rowaiaru II: Chinkonka (2003)]

Undeniably more than just a horror/action movie, Battle Royale (or Batoru rowaiaru) is an utterly beautiful, yet violent, film which never fails to leave an impact on me when watching.

We all know the story – a bunch of classmates are dragged to an island and forced to kill each other off due to a fascist Japanese government. If the adults are scared of the youth, I’m not sure making one of them into a super killer is the best idea, but the faulty logic aside, it’s a story that really gets to me, and it’s just so tragic.

The adolescent view of life is apparent in most of these kids. You have people harboring untold crushes which influence their actions, or people relying on past friendships in the hope that they’ll work toward a peaceful outcome as opposed to slaughter. Loners and the misunderstood now have a chance to make something of themselves, and petty disputes can now turn kids murderous.

In many ways, Battle Royale is drenched in the angst of being a teenager. Some of these kids have more to deal with than others, but the core of it is they’re all still kids (well, mostly, aside from one of the transfer students, a winner of a previous Battle Royale). It’s due to this that I think the movie has a greater impact – not just shock value due to the fact that they’re young, but in that these characters have only lived for 15, 16 years, and are now expected to fight for an adulthood they may not even comprehend on violent terms (there’s four who opt out and commit suicide in the situation, and I can’t say that’s a bad choice).

Also, it’s a movie of friendship. Sure, some of these characters love one another, but the bonds of friendship really shape most of the relationships. Look at the tragic story of Chigusa (Chiaki Kuriyama) and Sugimura (Sôsuke Takaoka). Hell, look at Mitsuko’s actions and the basketball flashback – she’s never felt like a part of the group, so do her actions really come as a shock, given her background? If she had some solid bonds, would she have taken a different route?

Battle Royale isn’t for the light-hearted, not with this level of violence beautifully melded with a very tragic story. I won’t even get into specific scenes to watch out for – there’s fantastic gunplay, of course, but there’s also more traditional horror deaths, such as knives, axes, and other fun sharp implements. It’s a bleak movie, but don’t be surprised if a few surprising moments of levity arise.

I won’t go as far as to refer to this one as a black comedy, but there certainly are elements here and there, especially in the jubilant Battle Royale explanatory video and Kitano’s (Takeshi Kitano) commentary and obsession over the cookies. Or his final scene, as a matter of fact (not counting the requiems at the end).

If there are any standout performances here, it’s either Tatsuya Fujiwara (Nanahara) or the aforementioned Takeshi Kitano. Kitano has a pretty good scene with Aki Maeda (Noriko), and Maeda’s really good too. Maeda and Fujiwara have solid chemistry, and I buy their adolescent affections.

Tarô Yamamoto (Kawada) was a bit of a mystery at first, but really came into a pretty good character. If you discount Kitano, the two main antagonists are Masanobu Andô (Kiriyama) and Ko Shibasaki (Mitsuko), both of whom are strong. It could be said that maybe Andô’s performance is a bit on the cliché side, but I still think it was good.

Others who positively stood out include Eri Ishikawa (Yukie, who really only had one scene of note, but it made her a lovable character), Takayo Mimura (Kotôhiki, who’s heartbreaking scene with Sugimura was amazingly sad), Sôsuke Takaoka (wish he would have done more than look for Kotôhiki, but the heart wants what the heart wants), Chiaki Kuriyama (Chigusa, who added another rather depressing scene in the film), and Takashi Tsukamoto (Shinji, who had a cool, revolutionary uncle and was perhaps one of the most interesting and apt characters in the film).

Battle Royale, if it hasn’t been made clear by now, is an emotional experience. The way that flashbacks and dreams are utilized just work really well, and gives depth to some characters who might otherwise just be seen as one-dimensional caricatures. There’s a sense of hopelessness throughout the film, but come the ending, with the final monologue, we’re told to “run for all you’re worth”, and if that’s not an optimistic conclusion, one of a hopeful future, I don’t know what is.

It could be said that the three requiems at the end aren’t necessary, and the third one (an extended dream conversation between Noriko and Kitano) is just bizarre, but what the hell, they still add some flavor into the film.

And speaking of flavor, that music, tho. Sure, you get some quality classical pieces, such as Johann Strauss’ Blue Danube and the epic Dies Irae by Guiseppe Verdi, but the whole score is gold, and the cherry on top is the concluding song by Dragon Ash, titled “Shizuka na hibi no kaidan wo.” I fell in love with this song when I first saw the film, and even now, the song sends chills down my spine. An utterly fantastic song to end with.

All things said, Battle Royale is a film that, if approached with an open mind, you can really fall in love with. I didn’t fully follow the events when I first saw this movie (I was much younger, and couldn’t tell many of the characters apart from each other), but even then I sensed this was special, and Battle Royale certainly is. It’s a horror movie in my eyes, no doubt about it, but it’s so much more. A perfect movie, with great violence, amusing black comedic moments, and characters you can find yourself getting attached to. I doubt films get much better than this.

10/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast. Listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one.

Happy Death Day 2U (2019)

Directed by Christopher Landon [Other horror films: Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (2014), Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015), Happy Death Day (2017), Freaky (2020)]

While it’s true that this sequel isn’t near as good as the first movie, Happy Death Day 2U is still pretty strong, and treads some new waters along with keeping some emotional content within as to not over-focus on the comedy.

If there’s one problem with the film, it’s that the comedy is more prevalent here. It’s just a more light-hearted affair, and while the first film obviously had it’s moments, just the montage of suicides in this movie was enough to put it over-the-top. Also, that sequence with Rachel Matthews’ character pretending to be a French blind girl could have probably been toned down.

Another problem dealt with the fact that the mystery killer portion of the film didn’t seem near as interesting as it was in the first movie. Not that much time was spent on trying to figure out who it might be, and honestly, there’s not that many suspects to begin with, so when we get to the end and find out, it’s not that much of a shock.

The film started out interestingly enough, focusing on a time loop that Ryan (a side-character from the first movie played by Phi Vu) was stuck in, only to move back onto Tree (Jessica Rothe) once an experiment goes awry. I thought sticking with Ryan’s character would have been okay, but with where they took Tree, I didn’t think this fake out was a big let-down.

As such, Phi Vu gets a bit more character here (though still not that much), which was nice to see. Much of the accolades, though, go to Jessica Rothe, especially during the scenes in which she spent time with her mother (alternate universe which her mother’s alive = fun times for Tree). It’s not quite as strong as Tree’s emotional scene with her father in the first movie, but I still think it brought this movie a much needed tone check.

Israel Broussard was just as good in this one as he was in the first, and he and Tree had some sweet moments. If there’s a big flaw insofar as performances go, it’s that Charles Aitken’s character seems so obviously evil, it borders on ridiculous. Sure, he wasn’t that different in the first movie, but here, I just couldn’t get out of my mind that he was a dark doppelganger of Jesse Spencer’s Chase from House.

Happy Death Day 2U isn’t a terrible film. I still found it above average, even, but compared to the first one, which was surprisingly fantastic, it doesn’t leave near as much an impact. I mean, come the end, we get a hideous rendition of “Stayin’ Alive” and a mid-credit sequence which just didn’t land for me. The idea of an alternate world was decent, and it lead to some okay additions, but really, it’s the first movie alone that I find actually special.

7.5/10