Whether its Live Die and Repeat, Netflix’s new show Russian Doll or the horror film Happy Death Day. Can we please put a stop to this alarming trend of people ripping off Groundhog Day? The simple premise – what would happen if you were forced to repeat the same day over and over again is becoming tired. Or is it. Every movie and TV show that has used this gimmick has somehow managed to pull it off and the horror movie Happy Death Day was no exception so can I really be surprised there’s a sequel, Happy Death Day 2U? Is Happy Death Day a “franchise” now?
What is it?
Happy Death Day 2U is the surprising sequel to last year’s Happy Death Day. I’m actually shocked this film got a sequel, the original film wasn’t exactly a talked about hit but I’m glad to see it return for another outing. Happy Death Day is a Horror film about a college student named Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe who, until now has had bit roles in several movies and has been on a couple series as the best friend) that finds herself repeating her birthday.
She starts the first film off as a Sorority mean girl who gets killed by a stalker in an oversized baby mask after a night of partying in her Sorority house. She’s forced to relive her death day over and over again. Who is stalking her? How does she break the loop? Why is it happening?
She’s come out of the events of the first film a better and changed person. We just assume this because she’s now with Carter (Israel Broussard) the hot geek boyfriend from the first movie. Things are good until Ryan (Phi Vu) comes into the room to tell them that he thinks he’s having déjà vu. Of course, Tree knows exactly what’s going on and gets sucked into trying to help him.
Why Did the First One Work?
The tone of the first film is more along the lines of Scream without the over the top self-aware comedy than straight up slasher films like Halloween, or Friday the 13th. It’s light hearted fun and not something that needs to be taken seriously. Rothe carries this franchise on her slender shoulders and breathes life into it.
She’s fun to watch and while she’s supposed to be a “mean girl” in the first film she never really is. They do a lot with basic day and after the first two times it never feels repetitive like you would think. I also like that this isn’t a scary, nor particularly gory horror film as its PG-13 rating can attest to.
The design of the baby-faced killer is not scary and probably will not catch on like other classic horror characters like Jason, Michael Meyers, Ghost Face, etc. This movie franchise will succeed long term based on its ability to keep changing its day and Rothe’s performance. Her character is likeable and fun. You can feel Gelbman’s frustration as she’s forced to relive the same day hundreds of time.
Again, the first part of the film when Rothe wasn’t on camera felt like a chore to sit through but it takes off again once Director Christopher Landon of Paranormal Activity Fame realized that this is Rothe’s franchise and he just let her run wild with her character and they didn’t even try to reign in all the various ways one can commit suicide. You could argue that it glamourizes suicide, but let’s not. This clearly isn’t a film meant to be taken seriously, at one-point Tree dressed in an 80s style exercise outfit runs and dives into a wood chipper, in another she jumps out of a plane in her underwear.
The movie also has a C or is it even a D plot point that actually has a surprising amount of hart for a so-called “horror film,” and you can understand why Bree would make the decision she does. Israel Broussard is fine as the man candy and does enough to serve as Tree’s moral compass without coming across as overly judgmental.
What’s wrong with the Sequel?
The first 20 minutes of the movie proves my point that this is a film series that won’t have legs beyond the first 2 or maybe 3 installments. The opening of this film, feels like a bait and switch, the trailers lead you to believe it’s one thing when the film has little to do with it. It’s told entirely from Ryan’s point of view as we watch him go through his boring Nerd day and sorry but Ryan’s kind of a dick and Phi Vu did not have the same charm that Rothe had.
One of the great things about the first film and movies like Groundhog Day is they don’t try to explain why the time loop happens, it just is and the fun of it is watching the character deal with. This movie makes the mistake of assigning a scientific explanation for what happens and to set about a “logical” scientific way of fixing the problem.
Something happens towards the end of the first act that leads you to believe (again based on the misleading trailers) that more people are going to be repeating days instead somehow solely focusing on Tree’s birthday again.
Only this time out they don’t even pretend to repeat the events of the first movie, at all and why would they? She knows what’s happening right away and kind of has a little “fun” with it while they try and solve the problem. This time out the baby-faced killer isn’t after her, but she still has to die over and over again in order to help Ryan and his nerd crew fix the mess they caused.
I really wish I didn’t watch the trailer before I walked in to this because it set me up for something completely different and there was a whole other side of this story that felt like was abandoned midway through filming. I’m not sure where the planned 3rd film could go based on everything that happened. Actually, it’s pretty obvious where a 3rd film could go. This was a fun ride and was worth my time.
Final Grade B-