Happy Death Day 2U Review – F**k Mondays! Am I Right?
Sequels don’t always work out so well, they can often just seem like bland imitations of concepts that we’ve already lived through. So, when you’re whole premise is about reliving events maybe a sequel makes some sense. Happy Death Day 2U is the Blumhouse follow up to their original low budget gem Happy Death Day. This time we take the Groundhog Day concept of the first one and layer in a few new dimensions for good measure. It’s a slapstick sci-fi slasher horror mash-up with a sprinkling of Scream 2 style meta that manages to have both heart and headshots.
From the get go we are made aware that this sequel has plans to delve into timey-wimey-spacey-wacey stuff. The moment the Universal logo began splitting apart into multiple dimensions brought nothing but Rick & Morty jokes to mind. There’s our first hint that it’s not just time-loops we’re going to be playing with this time.
It’s Ryan’s turn to play on the merry-go-round of life. The formula is the same to help the setup, Ryan (Phi Vu) wakes up in his car and witnesses a distinct series of events before being murdered by a Baby Face killer and waking up back in his car. We know it’s the same day as we hear the same car beeping La Cucaracha, are snapped at by the same angry tiny dog, nearly knocked over by the same coffee wielding skateboarder, accosted by the most persistent global warming activist and assaulted auditorily by the terrible trombone player. We know this formula, so it’s an easy opening that allows us to melt right back in to the story, almost as if it happened just yesterday…cause you know, it did.
It seems as though the film is taking the exact same premise and simply applying it to a new character, which could have been a big mistake and feel way too played out, however we are quickly corrected. As Tree (Jessica Rothe) and Carter (Israel Broussard) try to help Ryan with his deadly deja-vu we are introduced to our new plot point, a SISSY. It turns out Ryan’s thesis project was the reason for the whole time-loop in the first place and after being detonated a second time our new group, including fellow geeks Samar (Suraj Sharma) and Dre (Sarah Yarkin), are slo-mo blasted back to Monday 18th…again. The only difference this time is that Tree is not in her original dimension and it’s the little changes in this reality that keep the film fresh.
Rothe is stunning in her performance as she cherishes every death, dilema and emotional breakdown with pure revelry. Her character development from the original is expanded on as she has to choose between her happiness and the happiness of others. She manages to balance between black comedy apathy and emotional depth throughout the film. Her complete psychotic breakdown after discovering that it’s Monday again is beyond hilarious, all tact goes out the window and this college student is pissed! Who hasn’t wanted to scream into a pillow when their Monday morning alarm goes off?
Tree is still our Final Girl, despite the lead up indicating that Ryan might be taking that crown, and she’s revelling in the meta playground of this story. So easily she could be seen as a constant victim and a plaything for us to laugh at as she dies over and over and over again. Yet, with a knowing wink and a nod Tree is completely in control and cannot be described as anyone’s victim. There are three words that I assumed I would never combine but HDD2U provides one hell of a ‘Happy Suicide Montage’ that highlights the slapstick humour of this film perfectly.
Just as the first film did, HDD2U manages to support its narrative with an emotional backbone. It begins with Tree’s realisation that it wasn’t her unresolved emotional issues around her mother’s death that lead to her time-loop and ends with an emotional revelation about clinging to the past or embracing the future. What can I say, I’m a sucker for the exploration of mother daughter relationships and, yeah, it might have felt a little forced at times, but there was also genuine emotion here that gave this genre-bending, wild plotted film a level grounding. It was an anchor, albeit a small one, to the flights of fancy that HDD2U floated to.
As we round to the end of the film it seems to start drowning in its own convolution, becoming confused about it’s own narrative rules and what genre it actually is. That is my only real complaint however. Don’t get me wrong, I was left with some questions and some plot hole large enough to drive a train through but I’m just not sure that I’m too bothered about them. In a similar epitaph to that which I ended last week’s Escape Room review on, I’m all for some schlocky but well designed horror franchises with a few teething issues. They may both trail a little bit but I can forgive them this based on the credit of the rest of the film.
So here’s my war cry to bring back fun franchise horror! Final Destination is done, all our favourite invincible terrors such as ‘Nice Guy’ Chucky and ‘Babysitter Obcessed’ Myers are getting reboots instead of sequels, SAW has finally calmed its tits down and Scream has finished its meta mission. Maybe it’s time for a few new faces in the franchise of ‘not-so-serious’ horror and I readily welcome Baby Mask to the proceedings.
Just as long as there’s a balance, so far the two horror releases I’ve seen in cinema have been slightly lacking in the tension department. I still need to be tested and I still expect to have my limits pushed…I’m look at you Mr Peele.
Back to HDD2U and my final thought. It’s not perfect, but I snorted at some jokes, rolled my eyes at others, enjoyed the ‘deaths’ throughout but also felt there could have been just a few more scares. The premise has changed so a lot of the stabby-stabby-killy-killy of the original was missing but it was replaced with some campy 50/60’s sci-fi tropes so, once again, I can forgive it. The mid-credit sequence officially lays out the plans for a third film and I’m excited to see what genre they play with next time. Could we end up in the world of hard-boiled Film Noir, enter the Spy espionage realms or go nuts and end up in a Period Horror, I mean anything is possible with SISSY right?