MOVIE: HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U
STARRING: JESSICA ROTHE; ISRAEL BROUSSARD; RUBY MODINE; RACHEL MATTHEWS
DIRECTED BY: CHRISTOPHER LANDON
AMovieGuy.com’s REVIEW: 2 STARS (Out of 4)
Happy Death Day 2U is not the horror movie you are hoping to see, for better and for worse. Maybe it’s wrong for me to expect much from a movie that doesn’t deserve a sequel in the first place, but Happy Death Day– Blumhouse’s surprise hit of 2017- was an enjoyable enough horror take on Groundhog Day to earn a follow-up, and in 2019 a little originality goes a long way. Director Christopher Landon returns behind the camera, with star Jessica Rothe as snarky sorority girl Tree Gelbman, subjected to being killed over and over again till she learns a lesson. This time around Happy Death Day 2U has a sci-fi spin, the script written by Scott Lobdell and Landon, with Tree trapped in a time-loop. I’d say it’s a valiant effort, with an enjoyable first 30-minutes, but in the end Happy Death Day 2U ends up with cake all over it’s face.
Things pick up where we left off, Tree and Carter’s (Israel Broussard) newfound romance is blossoming, subjecting roommate Ryan (Phi Vu) to sleeping in his car. As the day progresses, Ryan briefly becomes the repeated victim of the slasher with a baby mask, waking up again in his car, only for the script to flip Tree back to her birthday of multiple deaths. It’s all because of Ryan’s college thesis- a giant orb called “Sissy”- has opened up a time portal sending Tree back to an alternate dimension. The catch-22 for our heroine is that she’s been sent to a time where her mother is still alive, but Carter is dating the snotty Danielle (Rachel Matthews), forcing Tree to choose between her past and her present.
Honestly, I didn’t completely hate HDD2. If anything, this is a movie that has guts to dash any expectations of the audience. This is not a horror movie, it’s more of a comedy, mixed with a sentimental message to tell people you love them when you have a chance. You expect HDD2 to be gooey with blood, not gooey with love. When we jump into all the dimensions, things turn into a John Hughe’s film- think The Breakfast Club, only with more death. There are Back to the Future references, They Live posters on the wall, it is obvious that Landon has an idea how to have fun with his characters, unfortunately there are so many things going on, none of it ever merges together.
The second and third acts revolve around the group trying to find a way to get Tree back to the dimension she chooses. In the control of a more sure handed director, Happy Death Day 2U would be a home-run. Instead, Landon squanders all the momentum gained in the beginning. As you might expect, there’s a montage of various deaths, a few laughs, but the end of Happy Death Day 2U is a mess. I had a hard time coming to grasps with the fact that I was supposed to care about these characters more than I did. Rothe is a star, clearly the best part of this series, but do we need to invest this much? Somewhere along the line Landon forgets to keep having fun, and takes the dramatics too serious.
Happy Death Day 2U is a mixed bag. I found a lot to enjoy- Rothe’s confidence is infectious (seriously, cast her in more movies) and I applaud the daring choice to flip the genre on the audience, but was let down by the sloppy filmmaking. I wouldn’t blame you for enjoying Happy Death Day 2U, there’s enough fun to have again and again and again. I just think the better movie is somewhere in a different dimension.
Written by: Leo Brady