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Movie Review: Happy Death Day 2U
February 16, 2019
Happy Death Day (2017) did not need a sequel, though, it seems that everything that is semi-profitable needs a sequel nowadays. Yet, how does one make a sequel to a film that does not lend itself to continuation? That is precisely what I was thinking before seeing Happy Death Day 2U (2019). Apparently, the answer is to entirely shift genres all while practically making the same film again. Since both are oddly similar at their cores, and yet, altogether different, I will review them simultaneously and then split them apart toward the end.
Both films have their foundation on riffing off of other films. The first film was a Mean Girls (2004), Scream (1996), and Groundhog Day (1993) stew. The second was all of the above, with Back to the Future films (1985-1990) added into the already confusing stew. I feel this is my biggest issue with these two films. There is nothing wrong with playing around with tropes or plotlines to well-respected films. The problem here is that it is the main thing these films have to offer. The things these films rip off from other movies are the meat and potatoes. The films hardly play with the tropes. There is no deconstruction, rethinking or perfecting of these clichés. It is as if these films were made by a movie combination bot.
I said the above was the thing I disliked the most about these films. That was a lie. Well, sort of a lie. It is more of a tie between the unoriginality and the plot holes. Both films have plot holes that just ruin the experience. The first film brings up that Tree’s (the main character’s) deaths are affecting her body toward the end. That whole plot line is dropped. The second film drops a fascinating character almost instantly: a character that is the catalyst for the entire plot of the movie. Many plot holes from the first film now exist because of its sequel. Happy Death Day 2U tries to explain the time loop the main character is stuck repeating. In doing so, it actually makes the plot of the first film more outrageous. It does explain the random blackouts in the first film for some reason. The only great thing Happy Death Day had was its simplicity. The film had a flow of a chill, calm breeze and was more about being in the moment. The sequel is a sci-fi mess that, in turn, complicates the first film.
The most significant difference between the films is their genres. Happy Death Day is a horror-comedy while Happy Death Day 2U is a science fiction-comedy. The issue is not the change in genre, but why the change was made. These films are, at their core, high budget fan fiction. As I stated above, the movies are steeped in their influences. These films do not wear these influences on their sleeves; instead, they take them and shove them in the viewer’s faces and then joke about it like it is okay because they are self-aware. This does not make the films clever, and it is like someone admitting to cheating on homework with pride. The films take such odd pleasure in being self referentially unoriginal.
These films are not all bad, though. The lead actress, Jessica Rothe, gives a performance that these films do not deserve. While many of the characters feel like cardboard cutouts, she brings real humanity to her role. Also, both films have death montages that are really fun to watch. The filmmakers use the more profitable PG-13 rating to their advantage. They use suggestion and admittedly clever editing to sub in for gore-filled deaths. However, the films are not of the same quality.
Happy Death Day is a simple film, and that is its best attribute. Even if a lot of the above was negative, the film feels good to watch. The attention to detail on the repeat days was impressive. Though, the most critical factor that makes Happy Death Day watchable are the things I complained about above. It is terrible in an excellent way. The film is in the same ilk as Sharknado (2013). Most of my laughs from the film were from how bad it was, and there is not a thing wrong with that. It is an excellent film for watching with a group of friends or on a bad day.
Happy Death Day 2U is not really worth a watch. Everything it does well was done better in the first film. Everything they both do wrong is worse in the sequel. It also does not have the “so terrible, it is good” factor. It is too complicated for that. It also tried to be more serious.
Most importantly, it does not have the same smooth flow of the first film. It feels like a chore to watch. I know I said I would go over the positives, and there is a key one in the sequel being that it makes the first movie more watchable. I did not have anything positive to say about the first film until I watched the sequel. It sort of hit me that the first film was actually well put together filmically.
Both of these films are weird. Happy Death Day is an oddly well-made but terrible horror-comedy. While it lacks almost every good thing its influences had, it makes up for it with being entertaining trash. I will probably watch the film again. Happy Death Day 2U is terrible, and not in a good way. It does everything worse than in the first film. I do not think I will want to watch the movie again. Oh, if one goes to see Happy Death Day 2U, stay for the credits. There is a scene that sets up for a third film, which is where the real horror of the film lies.