When Blumhouse’s Happy Death Day hit theaters a couple of weeks before Halloween in 2017, there was a cheeky novelty to its conceit. It was basically a slasher version of Harold Ramis and Bill Murray’s 1993 Zen comedy masterpiece Groundhog Day — minus, of course, Harold Ramis and Bill Murray. What it had instead was Jessica Rothe as Tree, a slightly snotty college student who kept waking up on her birthday to relive her own stalk-and-slash murder over and over again until she could figure out how to stay alive and unravel the identity of the film’s psycho killer hiding behind a sickly grinning baby mask cribbed from Dario Argento’s Deep Red. Tree was a horror-film final girl who kept pushing the limits of her own finality.
Happy Death Day was just clever enough to make you feel like you weren’t being ripped off. But somehow its post-modern, snake-eating-its-own-tail ingenuity helped it rake in $55 million at the box office (plus another $69 million abroad), all but guaranteeing a sequel. Maybe even a full-on franchise. Unfortunately, the newly-arrived follow-up Happy Death Day 2U doesn’t seem to know what to do for an encore. As seconds go, these are pretty sloppy ones. Written and directed by Christopher Landon, the film is just more of the same, reheated and served up over and over again until it becomes a déjà-vu endurance test.
Thanks to Tree’s gang of bumbling brainiac, science-nerd pals (including her nice-guy semi-boyfriend, Israel Broussard’s Carter), some experiments in the university’s quantum mechanics lab have restarted the same time loop that she got stuck in in the first film. So we’re back to square one, only this time Tree isn’t just replaying her own fateful, blood-soaked day, but she has to also save the lives of her friends. Misery loves company, I guess.
Happy Death Day 2U does hint for a while that there could be some geeky, hi-IQ Real Genius laughs. But those hopes are quickly squashed by the premise’s baked-in repetitiveness. Worse, the movie seems more interested in laughably sketchy exposition about physics and low-hanging-fruit humor than actual jumps and scares. It almost plays like a satire of the first film than an extension of it. Clearly, the quality control division at the Blumhouse fright factory must have been on vacation, enjoying the spoils from Get Out and the Purge films too much to keep an eye on this one.
Look, no one is expecting much from a movie called Happy Death Day 2U. Certainly not air-tight logic. But this chapter feels phoned in. And unless you’re really, really desperate for a new horror movie to check out, you might want to think twice about accepting the charges. C