I love this stuff. Seriously, give me more.
Having completely missed Happy Death Day back in 2017, ignoring it as just another low-budget horror offering that would disappoint me, I was pleasantly charmed by the trailer for the sequel Happy Death Day 2U. I was told by friends that I’d missed something rather special, so I went back and picked up a used copy of the first film.
Hot damn, I really had missed something fun.
Happy Death Day was an experiment in storytelling, pairing the ideas behind Groundhog Day and Scream to create a fairly new experience. Protagonist Theresa “Tree” Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) is, essentially, playing a mean girl. She wakes up in a dorm room and, after rudely dismissing the young man who took her home and his roommate, makes her way through what we learn is her birthday only to murdered by someone in maybe the creepiest baby mask I’ve seen to date.
Happy Death Day was an experiment in storytelling, pairing the ideas behind…oh wait a minute. That was a serious moment of deja vu there, wasn’t it?
Nailed it. Solid joke. Everyone laugh now. Please? Look, I know why you’re here. If you’re reading a review for the sequel then chances are you’ve seen the original film and know the mechanics of it. No need to retread all of it, instead just enjoy.
And yet in ways Happy Death Day 2U is a retread. We’re treated to someone else experiencing the death curse before it is once again returned to Tree, who is forced (through some fun new plot mechanics) to either allow herself to die or to find entertaining new ways to commit suicide (a sentence I never thought I’d type) in order to reset her miserable birthday. Thank whatever you pray to that this is well-executed enough to be fun, because it could have been so boring. Director Christopher Landon has come up with enough changes to make this interesting, but the real kicker here is that outside of his blending of comedy with horror he’s also managed to work in a new genre – sci-fi. That’s right, boys and girls, we get some science shit this time around.
What I truly appreciated is that the baseline premise has been enlarged, but not enough to keep this from really being a human story. Rothe is having as much fun with this role as anyone could have in a film like this, playing with the character and leaning into all of the new pieces of the story that can be all of charming, sweet, hilarious, and heartbreaking within a ninety minute film. This film has other wonderful performances, from Phi Vu’s Ryan the Roommate to Israel Broussard returning as Carter, but Rothe is running the show once again as such an openly well-rounded individual that it’s hard to focus on anyone else. Whether skydiving in her underwear to land in front of someone she hates and ruin their day or gleefully diving into a wood-chipper, she’s having a blast with it in even further ways than the first time around.
Okay, I keep going on about how wonderful Rothe is in her role but…that’s the main draw of the film. Landon’s direction is fun, keeping most of the action in broad daylight to let us watch the insanity in crystal clarity, but his script paired with this delightful performance are what made fans of the original film keep coming around and it’s what will bring them in this time. There’s little left to say without spoiling the plot, but for those looking for something new in the horror genre and even just a couple looking for an entertaining date night, maybe also audiences in general, this is a fantastic and hilariously dark pair of films that are sure to charm and tug at the heartstrings.
Hell, I’m as picky as it gets and they hooked me. Give it a shot, I’m pretty sure you’re going to love this stuff. I can’t wait to see Rothe’s career open up and the opportunities she gets out of this.