Happy Death Day 2U review – slasher sequel is much more than sloppy seconds

Happy Death Day was one of the more creative horror thrillers in the last 20 years. Its Groundhog Day meets Scream concept was clever, fun and unpredictable. The premise was fresh enough that the creators probably could have milked it for a sequel with just a few tweaks. Fortunately, Director/Screenwriter Christopher Landon opted to go a different direction with Happy Death Day 2U leading to a horror/thriller sequel better than expected.

The biggest change with Happy Death Day 2U is the horror thriller aspects are largely dropped. It’s no longer a murder mystery whodunit this time. Instead, it’s more of a blend of genres that somehow manages to go down smoothly.

happy death day 2u review - jessica rothe and phi vu

There are some surprisingly tender, emotional moments, a little sci-fi along with the steady mix of humor that’s becoming synonymous with the franchise. Franchise? Heck yeah, Landon all but promises a third installment provided there’s enough interest based on how 2U performs at the box office. With a $9 million budget, it doesn’t have to be a megahit to turn a decent profit.

Initially, it seems like Landon is going to go the safe route as student whiz Ryan (Phi Vu) experiences the same deadly deju vu as original installment protagonist Tree (Jessica Rothe). Deeply concerned that events might be repeating themselves, Tree and her boyfriend, Carter (Israel Broussard) try to help Ryan and his fellow geeks Dre (Sarah Yarkin) and Samar (Suraj Sharma) crack the time loop code.

happy death day 2u review -israel broussard, ruby modine, phi vu and jessica rothe

Just when it seems like Landon is settling into the same film as before only with more people he throws in a new wrinkle with a major twist for Tree. Some relationships are vastly different causing Tree to question if she’s better off. What’s really cool here is how Landon references so much from the first film in a manner that it’ll be fun to watch Happy Death Day 2U right after its predecessor. It plays out more like a companion piece than a sequel.

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Emphasizing comedy over horror/thrills was a risky move, but it paid off nicely. Besides, this premise works so much better with a winking attitude that lets the audience in on the fun.

Tree is becoming a unique character in the horror/thriller realm. That’s in no small part due to the format of the series, which allows her to evolve and mature as the films play out. Tree isn’t the same loathsome character she was at the start of the first film, but she’s still got enough rough edges that require some smoothing out.

Rothe makes for a charming lead as she easily pulls off the gamut of emotions from impatient cool girl to loving girlfriend to fierce fighter. I love that Tree is written in a way that she’s not unrealistically competent, but also doesn’t need to be saved and rescued.

happy death day 2u review - jessica rothe and israel broussard

Giving the rest of the cast more time to shine was a smart move as well. Rachel Matthews who plays Tree’s sorority sister Danielle has one of the film’s funnier scenes. Landon doesn’t put as much focus on the baby masked wearing killer this time, but in the context of this installment, it’s not as significant.

Make sure to stick around for a completely unexpected post-credit scene teasing the third film. This is a franchise that’s clearly hasn’t run out of time or inspired ideas.

Rating: 9.5 out of 10

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

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