Making a successful horror movie franchise is not as difficult as it may seem. All it truly takes is a strong that first movie. Horror fans tend to be a forgiving bunch, so at that point all you need is a fun movie. Released in 2017, Happy Death Day had the earmarks for a successful horror franchise. The question now, is its sequel Happy Death Day 2U strong enough to keep it going?
The premise behind the original movie is a simple one. College student Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) keeps reliving the same day over and over again. She dies multiple times in order to put an end to the endless nightmare. The caveat is every time she dies, she loses a little bit of her actual life. Each seemingly consequence-less death can end up being her last. It was a surprisingly fun movie with a fresh premise for the genre.
Happy Death Day 2U continues where the original left off. (Not literally. The movie’s time loop makes that pretty much impossible.) The plot still deals with a time disturbance. However, things are a little different this go around. There is a seemingly new protagonist and much more backstory is provided. At times, the sequel is a more willing to deal with the themes of time, responsibility, and morality. This is a good idea in theory, but this is not the film to tackle those subjects in a serious manner.
Happy Death Day 2U works best when it is at its silliest. For example, the movie deals with the multiverse and alternate versions of characters with a straight face. The explanations offered are purposely over the top and faux science lip service in order to advance the plot. The scenes are funny and extremely enjoyable. Happy Death Day 2U revels in it silly premise.
The wackiest moments of the film have little to do with quantum physics and the time continuum. Happy Death Day 2U uses its score and cinematography perfectly. Using overly dramatic music and slow motion at the most stereotypically epic moments highlight how willing Happy Death Day 2U is willing to laugh at itself. Moments that would otherwise be corny or generic end up being more amusing than they have any right to be.
Rothe once again puts on a stellar performance. This time around, Tree is wiser, craftier, and a whole lot tougher. She is very reminiscent of Joss Whedon’s Buffy. She believably takes control of every scene she is in. With each sequence, Rothe comes off as a plausible female action star. It is something of a shame that the rest of the cast is unable to keep pace with her.
Mediocre acting is far from Happy Death Day 2U’s biggest problem, however. The film is very poorly paced. Happy Death Day 2U is the type of movie that should never slow down. Between the kills and chases, there is plenty of room for techno babble and forwarding a love story. But the script should never get more serious than a character having to decide how to murder someone.
Yet, Happy Death Day 2U decides to have multiple moments of deep internal personal exploration. The first time it happens, it just seems random and out of place. Each additional time comes off as forced. Even the thinnest plots can be propped up with good character development, but it also needs to fit the theme of the movie. A horror flick like Happy Death Day 2U does not need to deal with finding true love, accepting the death of a loved one, and overcoming selfishness.
Happy Death Day 2U is a very entertaining, if flawed, movie. Fans of the original will probably enjoy the newest entry. The ability to not take itself seriously may even bring in new fans-until it starts to take itself too seriously. If it plays to its strengths, there is definitely room for more Happy Death Day movies.