Sequel to Happy Death Day is an unexpected success

By JUSTIN KIM | February 21, 2019

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Bollywood Hungama/CC BY-S.A 3.0 Actor Suraj Sharma features in Happy Death Day’s new sequel.

From the writer of all those Paranormal Activity sequels comes yet another horror movie sequel, Happy Death Day 2U. It feels like an odd combination of the time-loop films we know fairly well at this point — basically, a crazed science project, countless physics theories that will register as alien to non-majors and a psycho killer in a baby mask equals a flood of weirdness, inconsistencies and a copious amount of blood.

Actually this movie’s PG-13, so scrap that.

The first Happy Death Day was somewhat of a pleasant surprise, throwing the slasher genre together with teen rom-com drama. It logically shouldn’t have worked, but it actually turned out to be pretty enjoyable. As is the rule with any sudden horror hits, a sequel was announced.

Of course this should raise a code red for anyone who’s watched enough movies. Horror movie sequels are almost never a good idea, as they are inevitably inferior versions that are desperately clinging onto their predecessor’s fame without their own vision. And besides, what sort of sequel could you make out of a college girl trapped in a time loop with a baby-faced killer aiming to give her a gut-wrenchingly memorable birthday?

Now that I’ve seen it, I can confidently say this: As far as horror movie sequels go, this one wasn’t too bad. Of course, it may as well be the difference between getting stabbed by a knife and getting stabbed by a screwdriver, but it’s a start.

Happy Death Day 2U takes place directly after the first film and again stars Jessica Rothe as the college girl Tree. When she gets wrapped up in a freak accident involving an experimental quantum reactor, she gets trapped in yet another time loop, only this time in a parallel universe. Now she must find a way back to her original universe, while deciding whether she even wants to do so or not.

If you are finding it hard to take any of what I said seriously, don’t worry; it’s perfectly normal. This film is basically a less PG-version of Groundhog Day and Back to the Future mashed violently together, yet it is well aware of this fact, going as far as to have one of the characters reference both movies during the series.

In fact the whole film doesn’t take itself too seriously either, coming off as fairly self-aware. Student-made sci-fi projects, alternate realities, decisions about choices and letting go — this movie is basically a more extended and gorier Saturday morning cartoon. Many Saturday morning cartoons are unbelievably cringeworthy and often don’t make a lot of sense, but there is a reason why we tend to wander back in front of the TV from time to time like zombies.

HDD2U is basically another episode in this live-action cartoon, with more science gibberish, some fun with alternate reality plotlines, and messages about friends and families that are delivered a bit too on the nose but still do their jobs thanks to the stellar performance by Rothe. Yes, a lot of it is rather messy; the plot makes even less sense than the first film, and the “murder mystery” here is more akin to placing a blindfold on the victim and going “guess who?”

And that’s fine, because the film establishes its tone from the start. It has college students making a quantum reactor to traverse between dimensions and create time loops; the final villain’s look and performance look straight out of a classic 007 film; and at one point Rothe flips off the audience while skydiving in only a bikini. It’s goofy, gory PG-13 fun.

That said, the film does use the excuse of not taking itself seriously a bit too often. Toward the end, nearly all emotional conflicts are wrapped up, and a natural ending seems to be on its way. Then suddenly the film decides to go Mission: Impossible for an extended climax, as well as a dose of love and war, and that’s when this fun little mess becomes significantly less fun. 

However, this needs to be clear: Though fun, Happy Death Day 2U isn’t for everybody. If you liked the first film and already know the general tone of the series, then you should be able to enjoy this one as well. If you thought it was too messy or didn’t watch it at all, then your $14 is better spent on something else.

I don’t regret the time I invested on Happy Death Day 2U. I had fairly average expectations, and the film met them well. Amidst a flood of mediocre horror movie sequels, that alone is a welcome treat. However it does nothing to warrant a rewatch or even a fond memory in my head, and certainly not another sequel as the ending seems to be suggesting. If the Paranormal Activity sequels are any indication, it’s high time for this series to get off the stage while the audience is still moderately clapping.

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