Our staff checks out “Happy Death Day 2U”, the highly anticipated sequel to 2017’s surprise hit horror comedy homage to “Groundhog Day”.
In October 2017, the Blumhouse-produced horror/slasher/dark comedy Happy Death Day, directed by Christopher Landon and written by Scott Lobdell, surprised audiences with its clever and well-executed premise — delivering equal parts horror, humor, and heart. Our staff was there opening weekend to celebrate another hugely successful theatrical horror release. With several writers having so much to say about the film, we began a new tradition called Morbid Minis — bringing you short reviews from multiple writers, providing different takes on the same film.
Morbid Minis are for mainstream films currently showing in the theater. It’s our way to celebrate theatrical horror and encourage more genre fans to support these movies while they are in theaters, thereby encouraging more producers to support genre films.
In that spirit, we obviously had to return to the theaters for the sequel to the film that started it all. After professing our love for ‘Happy Death Day‘, does HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U capture our hearts as much as the original? Is this a match made in horror heaven? We’ve got twice as many writers joining us this time to share their thoughts. So read on to see if the filmmakers were able to rekindle the magic a second time around. (Angry Princess)
TAKE ONE: HARD NOT TO LOVE
By Nightmare Maven
Happy Death Day 2U is a great sequel that doesn’t fall into the trap of repeating the first film. Jessica Rothe delivers another great performance as Tree. And as a character, Tree gets another great arc. On top of that, we get to know some of the minor characters from the first film. This sequel relies more on comedy than horror. At first, I wasn’t sure that I liked that as I was missing the slasher vibes that the first film gave me.
The more I thought about it, though, it makes sense given the change in focus of the plot. In the first film, it’s all about Tree finding out who the killer is, but the second film is more focused on discovering why Tree is repeating the same day. Overall, I thought Happy Death Day 2U was smart and well-thought-out. I think fans of the first film will surely enjoy this sequel!
TAKE TWO: A SOLID SEQUEL, BUT LACKING SOME OF THE CHARM OF THE ORIGINAL
By Todd Reed
2017 had some amazing horror offerings (It, Split, Get Out), but none were more out-and-out fun than the clever Groundhog Day-esque Happy Death Day. This weekend Happy Death Day 2U hit theaters hoping to recapture the magic of the first film.
It succeeds with mixed results. After successfully breaking the time loop in the first film, Tree (Jessica Rothe) is moving forward with Carter (Israel Broussard) until Ryan (Phi Vu), Carter’s stoner friend from the first film, shows up having the same thing happen to him. As Tree and Carter try to help him, the time loop resets itself, and suddenly Tree finds herself reliving her birthday once again.
So far so good.
The first film never offered an explanation for the time loop Tree found herself in. It didn’t need one, and unfortunately, too much time is spent in this movie trying to explain what happened. Even Tree bemoans the fact worrying that the life-altering events of the first film were little more than a random accident. The result is that the movie loses some of the quirky mystery of the first film.
That’s not saying the movie is bad. I enjoyed it a lot. It has a lot of laugh-out-loud moments, some genuinely touching moments, and a few jump scares; it just loses some of the magic of the first film.
Happy Death Day 2U is a decent follow-up to the original film. Jessica Rothe is amazing and surrounded with a solid cast. Ultimately, it just felt like it spent too much time on the midichlorians of the time loop instead of just letting the mystery exist on its own magic.
TAKE THREE: A SO-SO SCRIPT, BUT ANOTHER STELLAR PERFORMANCE FROM ROTHE
By Jason McFiggins
Happy Death Day has officially become a franchise (stick around during those closing credits), and it has 2 major things going for it: the fun, stuck in a time loop premise and its star, Jessica Rothe. Rothe is perfect for the role of Tree, the girl who wakes up to the same day over and over and over again. She’s a well balanced mix of amusing, high strung frustration and being extremely like-able and relate-able. And when things get tough for her character, Rothe displays an uncanny ability to move her face in wonderfully funny, emoji-like contortions that play up her comedic ability.
I was happy to see her versatile ability to play the entertaining and unpredictable character of Tree matched by the scenarios in which the story made her kill herself: over the top, funny, and dramatic. In Happy Death Day 2U, I felt as though the story was informed by Rothe’s performance in part one, and that’s a testament to her talent.
There are a few scenes in the sequel that really allow Rothe to explore and build upon her character, and these scenes are very touching. In onne scene in particular, relatively early on, Tree runs up to greet a character she knows. The emotion of the moment is overwhelming, as Rothe does incredible work by showing her affection in both her voice and her facial expressions. She’s a very gifted actress, and Happy Death Day 2U allows her center stage to demonstrate her deep talent.
On the other hand, the story this time around suffers a little bit compared to what we saw in the first one. The whodunit element of part one was smartly played, as clues had to be gathered day by day as Tree continued to kill herself to ironically live and to reset the day. Part two finds her in another dimension, while stuck in a time loop, and living the day from part one over and over and over again, again.
It gets a little muddled, as a lot of exposition is thrown in here and there as a way of explaining what’s going on. This exposition muted the excitement felt from part one, as that film showed the hunt to determine the killer in a number of suspenseful sequences. The sequel does a lot of telling, and the story of how to return Tree to her proper dimension causes any suspense to feel diminished as the who-is-the-killer story line takes a backseat.
Besides the plot being a bit overstuffed with science-y mumbo jumbo, Happy Death Day 2U remains a really enjoyable film. And while I don’t mind mixing comedy and horror, I hope a part three at least levels the genre playing field and doesn’t lean too much on comedy like this second entry.
Jessica Rothe is great, and Happy Death Day 2U is a fun flick and definitely worth watching.
TAKE FOUR: JUST AS MUCH FUN THE SECOND TIME AROUND
By Richard Tanner
I’m not a cynical as some of my horror brethren. However, even I’m impressed by how much I love the Happy Death Day films. They are fairly predictable… a little cliche even. But I feel like its a chocolate cake. Maybe better chocolate cakes exist, but there is no way you can turn this one down.
Happy Death Day 2U is an 80s slasher set in modern times with a sci-fi twist! Killer deaths that can catch anyone off guard, a wonderful cast of new-ish talents, and the first potential slasher franchise since Chrome Skull in Laid to Rest. Though I will admit, Baby Face doesn’t strike fear into my heart by name alone.
Honestly, it’s the first film this year to make me happy to go the theater and already a strong contender for my top 10 of 2019. I cant wait to see it again!
TAKE FIVE: UNIMPRESSED, BUT MAYBE I’M NOT THE OBJECT OF THIS FILM’S AFFECTION
By Vicki Woods
The original Happy Death Day was a decent film at best. Silly and not very scary, I opted to believe that I didn’t love it because as an older adult, I was not the target market, which to me seemed like young teens, since it was neither gory or scary. It was unique for a horror-type film, and it worked well in the box office. So, the idea that the same story was back again in Happy Death Day 2U was not something that I was looking forward to. But the glutton for punishment that I am, and the hopes for a better movie from the likes of Blumhouse, sent me to the theater.
The fact that the actual cause of the time loop that kills Tree (Jessica Rothe) over and over in the first film is not explained, made the Groundhog Day copy-cat film a fun and interesting who-dun-it story. In Happy Death Day 2U, it is explained and explained to infinitum. To be fair, there were some touching moments and a few funny deaths that made me laugh, but it was not enough for a real horror fan or to even fill an entire film.
This is fully a teen flick, more about romantic notions than horror. All the unfunny slap-stick comedy, silly sci-fi movie references, and over-the-top bad acting left me wanting to go back in a time loop of my own and get my money back.
TAKE SIX: MORE HUMOR THAN HORROR, BUT STILL PLENTY TO LOVE
By The Angry Princess
I was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved the first film. Not only was it incredibly fun and generally a blast to watch, but it also was unexpectedly smart and heartfelt. Obviously, a large amount of credit for how effective the film was goes to writer Scott Lobdell. He created a compelling story with an interesting, smart, funny, and exceedingly likable female lead.
Fortunately, the filmmakers made a casting coup when they selected Jessica Rothe to embody that well-written character. She could not be more perfect the role, and she brings a warmth and depth to the character that, combined with her impressive comedic skills, lights up the screen and helps elevate the film to something more than just a throwaway slasher/comedy.
Like many of you I’m sure, I was ecstatic for a sequel, but I did wonder how the writers would pull off recreating the magic of the first film without retreading the same old territory. Happy Death Day did not need a sequel. It was a perfectly contained film, with a satisfying ending and a reasonable conclusion to the storyline. Of course, when a film is as successful as this film was, fans naturally clamor for more — and producers are eager to deliver, hoping to keep the fan enthusiasm alive.
While it’s not a perfect film, Happy Death Day 2U cleverly manages to infuse new life into the idea of the endless time loop, adding in a sci-fi twist and focusing more on the diverse, ensemble cast. This time around, there’s more humor than horror, so some genre fans may be disappointed. But we still get a great montage of fun kills, with Rothe’s character choosing to kill herself in a variety of entertaining ways rather than wait for a masked murderer to do her in. There’s less emphasis here on identifying who the killer is, and that does take away some of the fun and suspense of the first film.
Fortunately, this sequel still delivers plenty of heartfelt moments, allowing Tree (Rothe) to develop even more as a character. There’s a great subplot that requires Tree to make a very difficult choice, while trying to figure out who she really is and what kind of person she wants to be. It’s handled really well and gives the film an emotional depth that continues to elevate this series in a way that gives it tremendous staying power.
It’s not quite as good as the first film, but Happy Death Day 2U is a very respectable and extremely funny and fun sequel that’s definitely worth heading to the theaters for. Be sure to stay through the end credits for an additional scene that teases a Happy Death Day trilogy.