It’s interesting to watch a sequel film that genre-hoppingly morphs from one thing to another. I’m not a horror fan, but genuinely loved Happy Death Day 1, probably because it had an emphasis on comedy, and the actual scares were light. It was creepy still, with the “uncanny valley” baby mask — shudders — but PG-13 enough for a horror-adverse weenie like me to enjoy.
Also, I’m a huge fan of movies paying homage to the Groundhog Day theme of repeating time loops.
So I was excited about Happy Death Day 2U and basically expected a re-run of the original. I was fine with that. I think we all were. The first movie was an unexpected joy that felt fresh and fun, with a character — starting off as a total jerk just like Phil Connors from Groundhog Day — that we could root for by the end.
What happened with 2U was unexpected. We started the movie following Ryan, Carter’s roommate, in what seemed to be a new loop centered around him. Things take a sharp turn early on, when we realize we’ve gone from a Groundhog Day movie to a loving homage of Back to the Future. It’s insidious and insistent, with Bear McCreary’s score latching onto several memorable notes from BTTF’s soundtrack. And just so you don’t miss it, the characters reference BTTF, and there’s even a wall poster for BTTF 2 on Carter’s wall.
It was about halfway into the film when I realized this wasn’t horror at all, not even on the low level the first Death Day was. This was straight up adventure and science fiction, with a bunch of nerds straight out of Weird Science taking the stage.
Tree (Jessica Rothe) is still the lead, but the character ensemble has grown, with the flick ultimately the better for it. These are likable characters, and if a third movie comes along (as is teased in the extra scene you must stay in your seats for), I’ll happily jump onboard for more wackiness.
Where the 2U falls flat is in the stakes business: we kind of don’t care what universe Tree lands in. There is mother stuff and boyfriend stuff, and it’s all rather melodramatic in a way the audience can’t really care for. Call it a bit overambitious.
We didn’t come to the sequel film for drama, right? Let’s keep right on the tonal course we fell for the first time: dark comedy, wacky light horror, and a thoughtful mystery that needed solving. The mystery this time was a dull afterthought. Honestly. I found myself distracted, taking notes that said, “What genre is this now? How do I grade this?”
I decided to take 2U on its own merits, and not necessarily that of a rote sequel. It’s an enjoyable galloping adventure story with bits of horror and some decent humor. On this level, I give it a solid B. That’s a few points below the A grade from Happy Death Day 1, but not for lack of effort. Good job, Universal Studios! If you go in for thirds, I’ll be there.
About The Peetimes: Happy Death Day 2U was hard to find Peetimes for, since it has a lean pace, and each scene is either funny, emotional, or boasts a good action sequence. I went with mostly the emotional scenes for the 3 Peetimes, since those were easy to summarize, and weren’t the main point of seeing this horror/comedy sequel. I’d use the 1st Peetime if you can plan for it.
There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Happy Death Day 2U. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)
Rated (PG-13) for violence, language, sexual material and thematic elements
Genres: Horror, Mystery, Thriller, Sequel
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Co-Creator of RunPee, Chief of Operations, Content Director, and Managing Editor. RunPee Jilly likes galaxy-spanning sci fi, superhero sagas, fantasy films, YA dystopians, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies, in that order…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder. In fact, that little bladder sparked the creation of RunPee. (Good thing she’s learned to hold it.)