If you haven’t seen Happy Death Day (2017) then the first piece of advice I will give you is to AVOID the trailer for Happy Death Day 2U (even though, yes, Screen Realm is accustomed to placing the trailers with reviews), because within the first 10 seconds it reveals the identity of the first film’s killer and renders that movie pointless to newcomers (what a way to forfeit an entire demographic, huh?). And the second piece of advice I will give is to go and watch Happy Death Day… if you feel so inclined to climb aboard this strange new franchise.
For those who haven’t seen the original movie, it was essentially a slasher version of Groundhog Day. The story had a girl (Jessica Rothe) waking up every morning only to relive her final day before being brutally murdered by a masked killer. She must relive the same day on loop until she is able to disqualify all suspects on her college campus.
For those who haven’t seen the original movie, it was essentially a slasher version of Groundhog Day, with a girl (Jessica Rothe) waking up every morning only to relive her final day before being brutally murdered by a masked killer. She must relive the same day over and over until she is able to disqualify all suspects on her college campus and break the curse.
For those who…
To be honest I am not particularly fond of the format and I find the repetition arduous, and it would be a stretch to say that I liked the first movie. But with that said, I will concede that it was cleverly executed and pandered to its audience well, not to mention that it exploited the tropes with its tongue planted firmly in its cheek. And so I do appreciate that, for the most part, it was well played (but, just not for this particular viewer).
Happy Death Day 2U sees the original cast return, along with writer/director Christopher Landon (Scouts Guide to the Apocalypse), to resume their storyline precisely where they left off. When the curse appears to have been passed on to one of the first movie’s incidental characters, the sequence resumes, only now it has a strange new distortion. Enter science geeks and a quantum physics assignment and we suddenly have a bizarre story that delves into the multiverse and parallel timelines. If this movie is anything, it is creative, and it cannot be accused of resting on its laurels.
Landon has made a genuine attempt to expand on his concept to create a sequel that not only ventures into new territory, but also has the gumption to abandon its slasher origins. This is very much a teen science-fiction adventure with its 1980’s influence laid bare for all to see. Back to the Future Part II is referenced throughout the movie – both verbally and aesthetically – as the characters liken their predicament to that of Marty McFly, while the music frequently hints at Alan Silvestri’s magical, iconic score. Indeed, Happy Death Day 2U is hardly a slasher and recalls that era when sci-fi movies like The Philadelphia Experiment, The Final Countdown and My Science Project were moving in on the teen-market. It will be interesting to see how this sequel divides the audience. Slasher fans are sure to be disappointed, while others who enjoy expanding cinematic universes should get a kick out of the new tropes. Landon has effectively crafted a new franchise with the potential to reinvent itself with each instalment.
The film is really long, however, and demands a lot of patience from its audience. The plot goes around in circles over and over to the point of hysteria. With countless opportunities to wrap up the story being ignored, the false endings and close calls become all too frustrating as each possible conclusion slips out of reach, only to present another damn do-over. And just when you think you’re almost there, they return to the whole masked-killer slasher thing as if they’d forgotten all about it, thus adding a whole new layer of absurdity on top of an already preposterous flick.
Happy Death Day is definitely not a franchise for me, but I certainly do give it kudos for breaking the mould and daring to be different (within the context of its genre). And while the first instalment is technically the better film, I enjoyed this one a lot more. It’s only a matter of time before we go again and again and again, and who knows where we’ll end up… Hill Valley 1885? Great Scott!
SCREEN REALM SCORE: ★★★☆☆
‘Happy Death Day 2U’ opened in US cinemas on February 13 and Australian cinemas on February 14.