Death makes a killer comeback in writer/director Christopher Landon’s surprise follow-up to the immensely successful and surprising horror feature Happy Death Day with a genre-blending sequel.
Immediately after the events of the original, Theresa “Tree” Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) and Carter Davis (Israel Broussard) are now a couple and things are looking much better for the two of them. However, for Carter’s roommate Ryan Phan (Phi Vu), his life is about to turn into a living nightmare after he gets stabbed by a stranger wearing a baby mask while in the school. Eventually, Ryan, Carter, Tree, and many other of their friends enter the time loop again and have to team up to find their way out of it in hopes to finally escape it once and for all.
When I first saw Happy Death Day back in October of 2017, I initially thought the film was just fine. However, upon multiple repeat viewings, the film is actually amazing to me now. It’s a film that is wildly fresh and inventive for the horror genre and set up tons of unique and compelling characters that were established in the original, and it left room for further expansion in a sequel that we now have.
Much like the first time around, Rothe is absolutely fantastic as Tree Gelbman here. She has to show a ton of emotion, whether it be happiness, sadness, or frustration in several scenes throughout, and she does so effortlessly and makes it look easy. In fact, if it were not for her, the overall picture would not be as strong. You genuinely feel sympathy for Tree when she is in the time loop again as she has become a much better person ever since the first film’s events and has turned her life around. I rooted for her from the beginning all the way to the end. Furthermore, there were actually plenty of moments of emotional heft to be found which took me by complete surprise and I found myself deeply affected by these moments. Rarely can a horror movie do this so well, but Happy Death Day 2U is certainly one of those movies.
Happy Death Day 2U is a much more comedic film that the first one as well. The original did have its moments of comedy, but it was mainly a slasher film. The sequel however, is mainly a black comedy with a bit of horror elements blended in, as well as science fiction. There are genuinely a bunch of genres mixed into this feature and it was handled expertly and was done in such a clever way. I was drastically impressed by the way certain things were handled here, and the writing by Landon is great. He takes the characters we know and love from the predecessor and throws new obstacles their way and it was fascinating to see their evolution.
It is additionally a gorgeously shot picture as well as director of photography Toby Oliver returns from the original. Many shots in the film were extremely impressive and well handled. Bear McCreary, who also returns as composer for this sequel, has a terrific score here as well. There is one scene within the opening ten minutes where the score significantly increased the level of tension in the scene and it was all thanks to his musical cues.
The film is wildly entertaining and I was never bored for a single second while watching Happy Death Day 2U. Quite honestly, it is so much fun watching Rothe as Tree Gelbman running around doing various zany things all while “Hard Times” by Paramore is blaring in the background, or when Phi Vu delivers a gut-bustingly hilarious one-liner.
Sometimes the dialogue can be a bit off-putting unfortunately, which is one of the issues I still have with the first film as well. Luckily, the dialogue is not as weak as it was in the original, but there still were some times where the lines that were spoken were not the greatest.
Although I was fascinated with how the film blended the science fiction, comedy, and horror genre into one, there were a couple of scenes in which it did get a bit too bloated and there were so many things going on at once that it became somewhat difficult to keep up with.
Happy Death Day 2U is a rare sequel that improves upon the first that contains a groundbreaking performance by Jessica Rothe, brilliant writing and character explorations, and truly emotional moments.
Overall Grade: B+
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for violence, language, sexual material and thematic elements.
Cast: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Suraj Sharma, Steve Zissis
Directed by: Christopher Landon
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Running Time: 100 minutes