UNIVERSAL PICTURES (2019)
Director: Christopher Landon
Starring: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Phi Vu, Suraj Sharma, Sarah Yarkin, Ruby Modine
Am I the only one who thinks this title is just bad?
Happy Death Day was a surprise hit in 2017, backed by Blumhouse and fully utilising their low-budget style, the movie raked in $125m from a $5m budget. A sequel was inevitable despite the first movie being the opposite of ace. So, Jessica Rothe and co. return in the Groundhog Day/Scream-esque live-die-repeat cycle of horror that already feels like much of the same and a good way for the studio to make more dosh. After all, that’s what it’s all about in these instances – output over quality.
This time around, Tree Gelbman (Rothe, still called TREE) is free of her murderous nightmare, living her best life with hunky boyfriend Carter (Broussard) but is soon thrown back into the death cycle after a Quantum Cooling Reactor (yep…a time warper) built by Carter’s roommate Ryan (Vu) and his geeky friends malfunctions. By opening parallel dimensions (yep…), Tree eventually has to decide which universe to reside in whilst being stalked by a masked killer and this time having to kill herself over again to help the geeks repair their machine. Anything utilising time turners/warpers/distorters etc. is usually guaranteed to be a bit rubbish. The deus-ex-machina of being able to mess with time is a weak narrative tool but, when done well, can be effective (to be fair). Happy Death Day 2U does away with its more traditional horror-comedy vibe of the original and ends up as more of a…strange teen science lab adventure, a parallel universe gone wrong. Where the first movie didn’t really explain the phenomenon, the sequel smothers itself in exposition and unravelling the mystery.
The most pertinent thing about Happy Death Day 2U is the fact that it’s a mess – as much as I disliked the first movie, at least it was consistent in its tone and with what it wanted to be. The horror aspect is gone (seriously, the horror aspect has gone, the jump scares are weak and the lack of tension is palpable) and it has moved from the E! Network crowd to seemingly the Nickelodeon crowd – there are wacky japes between the ‘college nerds’ and the ‘hot blonde’ and don’t forget the uber-bitchy best friend too! Everything feels hollow and overly-satirical at times. Jessica Rothe is less obnoxious this time, but her character is still not particularly likable and the rest just blend in with each other. The writing isn’t great either, partly down to the fact that the formula has run its course. Live, die, repeat becomes less appealing the longer the expositional murder/suicide montages go on. The crux of the movie rests upon ‘your mother or your boyfriend!’ Do you pick reality or fantasy? Neither are appealing and the mother angle falls flat and is simply manipulative. When the reveals rears its head, you may find your eyes attempting to roll right out of your head – the mess is complete. Oh, if you liked the Babyface killer from the first movie, the guy that trailers relied on, then you’ll be sorely disappointed coming out of this.
Happy Death Day 2U is the epitome of cashing-in. The first movie was serviceable, despite being bad, but it worked as a one-time flick. The sequel just sounds like a studio sniffing that pretty green. Like the movie itself, the formula is effective – the movie is cheap to make but reaps big box office reward, so don’t bet against Happy Death Day 3 in the near future. Hopefully, that won’t come to pass, though, as the movies are just awful. The sequel falls short of the low bar set by its predecessor simply by straying so far away from what makes that movie so successful – the horror comedy aspect. Here, there’s no horror or comedy, just a cast coming back together for a quick hurrah in a weird science based riff on a slightly better movie. Blow out the candles now, it’s time to wish 'Happy Death Day' to these movies.
February 14th 2019