“Happy Death Day 2U” isn’t a good movie. The characters are shallow with little to no development. The narrative has a lot of potential that is entirely lost in poor writing and disappointing plot twists. As a horror film, it relies exclusively on the predictable jump scares that defined the first “Happy Death Day.” As a comedy film, the humor consists of overdone exaggerations at best and obnoxious slapstick at worst. And despite all that, I absolutely loved the entire experience of seeing it.
I went into the theater with high hopes. Christopher Landon, director of this “Happy Death Day” series, presented an original concept for a horror movie in the original film that I genuinely enjoyed. (Disclaimer: Be sure to watch the original film before buying tickets. The sequel’s story immediately follows the plot of the first and many of its references and jokes fall flat without seeing the original film.) In “Happy Death Day,” college sorority member Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) relives her own murder on the night of her birthday over and over again in a “Groundhog Day” fashion, unless she can figure out how to break out of the loop. The movie blended comedy and horror together nicely but suffered in its plot and character development. I hoped that “Happy Death Day 2U” might innovate further on the original concept and fix the flaws of the first film. I thought this sequel might be the second chance the films needed for a fantastic premise.
Instead, Landon doubled-down on the same rubric of the last film. If “Happy Death Day” was a whirlwind of two-dimensional characters, poorly thought-out misdirections and bad character motivations, “Happy Death Day 2U” is a hurricane. Secondary characters receive more screen time than the first movie and somehow still feel less developed by the end. The genre flows between horror, comedy, romance, action and drama at a breakneck pace. The plot’s direction alternates between painfully obvious sequences and twists so far-fetched that they are impossible to predict. The final product is a beautiful disaster that I couldn’t help but love.
Truth be told, I think Landon may have been shooting for a “so bad, it’s good” tone all along. The way that the plot often turns in the opposite direction that the audience expects — even when there’s no sensible reason for it to do so — seems calculated. The best moments of the movie are often those over-the-top moments when time slows down, a pop song starts up, and the camera takes a moment to enjoy some wild scene. Even the characters seem intentionally boring, and they all fit perfectly in overused archetypes with no attempt to challenge the roles or show any development. It’s all ridiculous and stupid, and that seems to be the point.
I recommend “Happy Death Day 2U” to anybody looking for a good time. Bring a friend, significant other, sibling or teacher to see the movie with you. You’ll want somebody to talk to afterward. If you enjoy absurd screwball humor, bad science, unrealistic characters who resort to murder way too quickly, plot twists for the sake of plot twists and grand slow-motion scenes, chances are you’ll love this movie. Just don’t expect it to be good.