Movie Review: "Happy Death Day 2U" (2019)
There’s no major argument amongst the horror community that 2017’s Happy Death Day was a pleasant surprise. It made good money, turning a 4.8 million dollar budget into 125 million worldwide, and was critically adored. Much of the world (myself included) were introduced to the living, breathing revelation that is Jessica Rothe. It was a slasher that took echoes of Scream and mashed ‘em together with the flavor of Groundhog’s Day. That’s a killer combo.
With that in mind, I have to inform you that 2019’s Happy Death Day 2U is no slasher film and may not even “qualify” (whatever the fuck that means) as horror this time around. Sure, there are violent deaths, but it’s simply not a slasher. I suppose you’ll just have to take my word for it, as I review in as spoiler-free of fashion as humanly possible.
Do I say that to knock this highly anticipated sequel? No. Hell no.
Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) is living her best life, as they say, with Carter (Israel Broussard). At least, that’s what you’d think…until Carter’s roommate, Ryan (Phi Vu), busts in with a familiar problem: he’s stuck in a time loop where he keeps being killed by a psycho in a Bayfield University Babies mask.
That’s all the setup I’m going to give you.
This all sounds familiar, right? It should. I honestly believe they wanted you to think that Happy Death Day 2U was going to be a classic horror sequel that pulled out all the same tropes in the hope of doing the same thing as it predecessor. If you go into this one with a desire to see more of the same then you may be disappointed.
Do I say that to knock it? Again- hell no!
What does remain the same is the mesmerizingly charismatic performance from Jessica Rothe. She’s a damn delight; there’s no other way to put it. Sure, she’s stunning. It’s not that, though (no complaints, however). She’s whatever the scene needs her to be, and she makes it look effortless! You’re just drawn to her style, beauty, and sense of humor. The vehicle is driven squarely by her, and you’d think she stole that bitch.
I don’t mean to neglect the rest of the cast. They have all expanded their roles and brought real life to characters that were (with the exception of Carter) sidebars in the first film. Hell, two of them have done complete character flips! Phi Vu, in particular, truly comes to life in a way you can care about. The newcomers are all memorable as well.
Happy Death Day 2U is a film that defies traditional genre by being many things at once. The shocker is that horror is damn near the least of those genres. The writing (this time handled by returning director Christopher Landon) is clever- sometimes a little too clever. There’s inconsistency in the tone, to be sure, but the level of fun is so high that you really won’t (or at least shouldn’t) give a damn. The film hews closer to comedy and sci-fi, but there are some serious trappings of a good, old-fashioned high school flick like Not Another Teen Movie or anything by the late, great John Hughes.
Just when you think that it’s all laughs and stabbings, Rothe flips the script and hits you with some real dramatic chops concerning her dead mother and what she really wants out of life. I was surprised to find myself chopping a wee bit of onion in that setting, but I’ll own that shit. She killed it, plain and simple.
The mid-point montage of Tree seeing how many different ways she could kill herself is comedy and meme/GIF gold. Seriously, it’s brilliant shit…worth the price of admission alone.
The level of tension isn’t anywhere near as high as the first film, but (again) considering the genre fluidity that is to be expected. People can be very fickle when it comes to what they want out of a sequel. If you give them the same old they say it’s “lazy writing” and if you reinvent something or make a daring choice they say “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.
Instead of going into Happy Death Day 2U with a negative approach and damned if you do, damned if you don’t mentality, try going into it looking to be as entertained as you were by the first one. I promise you will be. It’s a great way to escape for an hour and a half with some actual rewatch value.