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“Happy Death Day 2U” Review: The Slasher and the Sci-Fi

“Happy Death Day 2U” is the sequel to 2017’s super fun hack ‘n slash, “Happy Death Day.” Both films are directed by Christopher Landon, who you may know from his work on “Disturbia” and the “Paranormal Activity” franchise. The film brings back its great original cast: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard and Phi Vu, with fun new additions like Suraj Sharma and Sarah Yarkin.

In “Happy Death Day 2U,” Tree Gelbman (Rothe) discovers that dying over and over was the easy part when she finds herself trapped in the time loop of her death day, once again.

“Happy Death Day” was an underrated gem of the slasher genre that slowly gained recognition and fans as the word spread. Does “Happy Death Day 2U” live up to the legacy of its predecessor?

Yes and no.

The thing about the first “Happy Death Day” was that it was a fun and true example of the slasher subgenre. It had the recognizable masked killer, it had the simple weapon, it had the bloody kills and it embraced all the best of the “killing off the college coeds” atmosphere. It’s a timeless slasher story.

Happy Death Day 2U
Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures

It was also a cool college comedy. It had great characters and this awesome spirit. “Happy Death Day” also had some real heart and meaningful intent with the themes it explored.

Just getting the genre right is good enough, but throw all the other stuff on top and “Happy Death Day” became something truly special. And that’s what’s ultimately missing in “Happy Death Day 2U.”

Don’t get me wrong, there is so much of that fun original vibe and great humor in “Happy Death Day 2U” (quirky suicide montage, anyone?), but all of those fun nods can’t keep up with the overall change in tone that has happened. The thing is…“Happy Death Day 2U” ventured away from horror and went full on science fiction.

What’s worse? This new sci-fi element totally neuters that heart and soul that the first film has. Like, literally renders it meaningless. That hurt, man.

I suppose I can dry my tears and say, “Well, I guess having a concrete explanation for a time loop is understandable in a sequel. Film cannot live on feels alone.” But the kicker is that “Happy Death Day 2U” can’t successfully re-inject legitimate emotional stakes into the film. The sincere emotional struggle that defines the first installment has totally been chucked out the window and I just can’t deal.

Furthermore, the science fiction approach of this sequel brings up questions that it provides no answers to. The word “multiverse” gets thrown around. An early incarnation of the killer turns out to be a friend from another dimension, here to save them from…what exactly?

It’s never made clear because the film is all too excited to ride its new time machine back to a fun horror romp. But it’s not that simple. The audience has already been placed into a whole new movie. Talk about a tease. That could have been one hell of a movie! Where’s that version of the script?

These characters were perhaps strong enough to be plucked out of one genre and dropped into another, maybe keeping that concept of the Babyface Killer being a vigilante time traveler. Instead, the film tries to have the best of both genres and ends up not doing right by either.

Additionally, “Happy Death Day 2U” relies a little too much on its audience having a very clear memory of the events of the first film. The sequel does provide a quick recap, but only just enough to (barely) remind the audience of how the previous time loop worked. But that doesn’t stop “Happy Death Day 2U” from using jokes that no one can remember as a crutch.

Happy Death Day 2U
Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures

If you were double-featuring the two, it would work just fine. But it’s points off for a standalone film and an example of loosey-goosey writing.

It’s still a fun watch. The characters are just as great as before. It knows when to laugh at itself and the slasher films that came before.

The jury is still out on the ending, to be honest. The ultimate villain is stupid and predictable, but like so stupidly predictable you find yourself thinking “No way. They’re not going to do that.” But they did.

In a traditional slasher, one could let this slide because it comes with the territory. Too bad this isn’t a traditional slasher.

My verdict? It’s a fun watch but nowhere near as good as the first. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it an unnecessary sequel, but it unfortunately did nothing to bolster the first film.

“Happy Death Day 2U” is in theaters now! What are your thoughts on the sequel? 

Want to see more Blumhouse movies? We got 10 must-see Blumhouse movies here.

Featured image credit: Universal Pictures

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