Ever since the emergence of the Paranormal Activity series and the studio behind it, Blumhouse Productions we have been given a plethora of low-budget horror films to fill our time, some more successful than the others. For every The Purge we got Ouija and films like it. Luckily when Happy Death Day premiered in 2017 it managed to slot itself in the former category thanks to its clever subversion of the horror genre with some playful comedy and a decent dose of character. Despite being tragically named, Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) and the film that followed her was an enjoyable escape from the terrors of reality. The sequel that followed, nobody expected, or needed.
Happy Death Day 2U continues the story of Tree as she is forced back into a similar time loop thanks to the antics of physics student Ryan (a painfully dreadful Phi Vu). However the world and loop she is stuck in is different this time and while she must figure out how to get back to the life she had she must also figure out who is carrying out a similar string of murders on campus and deal with yet another family drama. By this point she should be well versed in time travel and its complications but there are always room for surprises, just like this films existence.
Following up a lively, comedic film, 2U carries on Blumhouse’s tradition of amping up the story for its sequels and while it isn’t quite as drastic as The Purge Anarchy there is a distinct lack of delicacy on display here with very little attention being paid to making a story with actual sense. While Blumhouse haven’t been known for subtlety, Happy Death Day was a film with a contained, succinct story with a powerful presence. Sure it wasn’t blow the doors off the theatre cinema but it never proclaimed to be.
2U however embraces cheap thrills instead of cogent plotting which makes a remarkably simple film difficult to follow and incredibly jarring. The added family drama here, although commendable in how it tries to progress Tree’s emotional growth is mismanaged and out-of-place in a film more interested in shocking than saying. The old adage that bigger is better makes director Christopher Landon’s film messy and nonsensical, even more than a time travelling horror comedy should be. 2U lacks the quiet moments where it can connect with its audience and in trying to make every moment here fantastical, Landon manages to sully them.
That being said, this follow-up ratchets the fun factor to 11. More interested in pushing boundaries on what this series can get away with in the name of comedy, Landon manages to make most of the comedy here work through sheer force of will. Testing the limits of how farcical his film can be, this is playfully edited to embrace the outlandish. When people say that you should switch off at the door in reviews, this is the film they were talking about. It only works if you let it.
However this sequel, more so than Happy Death Day is a collaborative film, and it only works in part because of Rothe who not only embraces the films shameless soul but gives into the comedic elements with fearless poise. The films more eccentric moments soar thanks to Rothe and her devotion. The visual tomfoolery backs her up and in this, Landon might find his saving grace as the sight gags alone are worth the price of a ticket.
This approach makes some of the more offensive moments more palatable and makes the film more of a comedy. While some might not be expecting this oddly drastic shift in tone for a series that started more as a straight horror film, can you honestly say you expected a sequel in the first place? In a way it is a film that exists outside of what we all can expect and in that regard it finds its originality and its meaning but it doesn’t span the entire length of the picture.
While it is fun to pick out moments of humour or original thoughts that gave way to some joyful fun there is never a moment 2U doesn’t throw everything at you to disguise the fact this film is superfluous, an unnecessary sequel to a series that never should have been a series. While some might think it smart to base a film around explaining the physics of why this story exists, a playfully amusing approach to continuation, I, like many others, would have preferred to be left in the dark on this one.