'Happy Death Day 2U' - A sequel that skips out on the horror

Happy Death Day 2U

Remember Happy Death Day? That Blumhouse Productions film that basically borrowed the concept of Groundhog Day/Source Code/Edge of Tomorrow/a hundred other movies and put it in a horror format to create a really simple, but effective little film that then went on to gain something of a cult following?

Yeah, you aren’t going to hear too many people use the words “horror,” “simple” or even “effective” when describing Happy Death Day 2U, I can promise you that.

Happy Death Day 2U is a sequel to 2017’s Happy Death Day, both of which come from director Christopher Landon (who also made Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, which is a movie this critic didn’t care for one bit, and Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse) and actress Jessica Rothe.

It’s been about a seven since the events of the first Happy Death Day — at least, seven normal days that all human beings have experienced and lived through — and Theresa ‘Tree’ Gelbman (Rothe) has never been happier.

Happy Death Day 2U
credit: YouTube

Since fighting off (and repeatedly dying at the hand of) the baby-faced murderer, she’s since turned her life around by giving up the sorority life and spending her free time with her new boyfriend, Carter (Israel Broussard), instead.

Just as she’s telling herself that everything might finally be perfect, Carter’s roommate, Ryan (Phi Vu), comes busting into their dorm room with some less-than-satisfying news.

You remember Ryan from the first Happy Death Day, of course. He’s the one blonde-haired kid who was only given the one repeated line of, “Yo, did you hit that fine vagine or what?”

Well, the filmmakers and scriptwriters figured they’d better actually give Vu something meaningful to do this time around in Happy Death Day 2U — until the twenty-minute mark of the movie, that is, which is when Ryan pretty much disappears and doesn’t do much else for the remainder of the film.

Happy Death Day 2U
credit: YouTube

Points for trying, I guess?

Ryan tells Carter and Tree that he’s experiencing some kind of weird deja vú and could have sworn that he’s already lived through this day. Tree, of course, jumps on this immediately and knows that it can only mean trouble — trouble that likely involves another murderer in a baby-face masked.

Sure enough, someone else is walked around yielding the knife and costume, only this time he’s not just after Tree.

Somehow, and we’re keeping this vague not because of spoilers but because my brain simply couldn’t keep up with Happy Death Day 2U’s frantic storyline, this all relates back to some scientific doohickey that Ryan and his classmates — Samar (Suraj Sharma) and Dre (Sarah Yarkin) — have been working on that theoretically can slow-down and speed-up time.

A failed experiment with that device sends Tree, you guessed it, back into the same old day from the first Happy Death Day, meaning she now has to find a way to escape it once again.

Happy Death Day 2U
credit: YouTube

Only this time, things are different. The masked killer has followed her back into this timeline, but it’s clear from the get-go that Lori (Ruby Modine) isn’t the one committing the murders this time.

Don’t worry too much about that subplot, though, because it maybe gets twenty-five minutes of screen time total. Calling Happy Death Day 2U feels like a pretty big stretch, even when comparing it to the first film.

That’s okay, though, because I’m all for Happy Death Day 2U doing something different. The last thing I wanted from this sequel was a retread of the first movie — which this most certainly is not.

Happy Death Day 2U, rather, takes elements of comedy, science-fiction, romance, drama and just the slightest touch of horror, blends them all together and then tries — er, maybe forces is a better adjective here — to serve them all to you at once.

Happy Death Day 2U
credit: YouTube

The results go about as well as you’d expect.

To be fair, there are moments in Happy Death Day 2U that work really well in a vacuum. The opening act in which we see Ryan, Carter and Tree all interacting with each other in the present timeline is a captivating opening, the humor hits more often that it doesn’t (a certain montage involving Tree finding new ways to restart the day is dark but still pretty amusing) and there’s a surprisingly genuine sub-plot that I didn’t see coming at all but winds up being pretty moving nonetheless.

Credit also has to be given, of course, to Rothe for owning every minute of her performance. These movies, quite frankly, wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable as they are if it wasn’t for Rothe committing to them in the charismatic way that it does.

The problem, though, is that Happy Death Day 2U is trying to do far too much without having the first clue how to execute that. Instead of suffering from sequel-itis, this film is just all over the place and, therefore, is really hard to track.

Happy Death Day 2U
credit: YouTube

Again, part of that is perhaps done on purpose — in an interview with Collider, Rothe said that Landon purposefully tried to “elevate the movie from being a horror movie into a Back to the Future type of genre film.”

Even so, they can’t stick the landing of capturing that crazy yet pin-pointed goofiness we saw in Back to the Future, turning the plot of Happy Death Day 2U into something of a mess.

On top of that, throw on the fact that there are some parts in here that are either really dumb and cheesy — especially the last fifteen or so minutes of the film — or just feel completely out of line as to what the first Happy Death Day set up.

In the end, I’m not going to tell you to run away as fast as you can from Happy Death Day 2U. If you’re a huge fan of the first film (I think it’s fine), odds are you’re going to find some things you like in the second one. That being said, I have a hard time imagining someone who didn’t care for the first one watching Happy Death Day 2U and saying ‘Oh yeah, this one totally changed my mind.’ I admire the new direction this goes in and how Landon isn’t afraid to get weird with this franchise, I just wish that the movie had enough logic to back some of those choices up.

Watch the trailer for Happy Death Day 2U here and then let us know, in the comments below, what you thought of the film!

'Happy Death Day 2U' - A sequel that skips out on the horror [REVIEW]
  • 'Happy Death Day 2U' - A sequel that skips out on the horror [REVIEW]
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Brandon Schreur

The fella over there with the hella good hair. Movies and TV are my jam, and the fact that I get to write about them on a regular basis is the bees knees.