Happy Death Day 2U Movie Review
Sequel to the underrated horror-comedy that had a sorority sister repeating her own gory death after gory death until she discovered the identity of and stopped the killer pursuing her across campus, Happy Death Day 2 U brings back the original cast for more Groundhog Day entertainment. The result is a good but not great follow-up that tries a little too hard to explain why everything is happening, but should be given merit for building on the original premise without just offering up more of the same.
Director Christopher Landon returns to tell the story of Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe), the once-bitchy sorority sister who after many actual-death experiences has become a better person and landed a dorky dude as her boyfriend. That is until she gets time trapped on the same horrible day once again—albeit with some unexpected changes to her world.
Notably not returning is screenwriter Scott Lobdell, with Landon taking over sole writing duties.
The absence of Lobdell shows, but thankfully only a little. Happy Death Day 2 U doesn’t come off as quite as clever or thought through as the original, though Landon should be credited for making a quality sequel to a concept thriller—a tall task indeed. Happy Death Day 2 U isn’t as fun, energetic, or as engrossing, and yet it still has plenty going for it.
Rothe is once again terrific, the perfect protagonist for a horror movie in which the character has evolved a lifetime in just a day and a story that shifts between thrills and comedy often second by second. Israel Broussard is once again solid, though Landon makes the wise decision to promote Phi Vu, who played his annoying but little seen roommate in the original, to a more prominent role. Vu has serious comedy chops.
The sequel’s story is inventive and markedly a bit different from the original—and it’s refreshing to see a horror movie that is willing to change things up to stay interesting—but it’s also simply not as good. Landon’s decision to explain why Tree got stuck in a Groundhog Day time loop and make it so integral to the movie adds a strong element of science fiction that takes away much of the horror tropes from the first movie—the killer barely feels like a presence, nor is the mystery of his or her identity all that important.
In short, while it’s good to see Happy Death Day 2 U move in a new direction, Landon loses sight of some of what made the original so good.
Nonetheless, as horror sequels go, Happy Death Day 2 U is still a lot of fun. If you enjoyed the first one, you’ll probably like this one—just don’t set your expectations too high.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.