Happy Death Day 2U is a genre crossing sequel that’s clever and funny at times, but registers zero scares. It continues the Groundhog Day premise of reliving the same day after being repeatedly murdered by a killer wearing a babyface mask. It spreads the deja vu wealth to other characters, then incorporates science fiction and romantic comedy elements. The primary leads return to investigate the new twists. The problem is that it fails as a slasher flick. Happy Death Day 2U is light on blood, gore, and utterly lacking in terror.
HDD2U, the twitter handle I’ll use as an acronym, opens with nerdy Ryan (Phi Vu) having slept overnight in his car. We find out that Ryan is the roommate of Carter (Israel Broussard), who has Tree (Jessica Rothe) in his bed from the first film. Ryan is quickly dispatched by the babyface killer after checking on his science project. He returns to Carter and Tree with the insane story of his resurrection.
Tree realizes that Ryan is having the same experience. Just when she thought her nightmare was over, it begins again but with different circumstances. Her life as a trampy co-ed has deviated from the events of the first film. Her roommate Lori (Ruby Modine) is alive and not the killer culprit. Carter is no longer her love interest. Even more shocking is the change in her family life. Tree deduces her predicament was caused by Ryan’s experiment. Just when Tree decides to help him fix his project, she begins to like her new life. Happiness is fleeting as another babyface killer complicates the situation.
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HDD2U strikes a different tone from the first film. The characters constantly refer to Back to the Future as a guide for their predicament. Every time Tree dies, she changes events and spins a new timeline. Some are hilarious, while others are surprisingly profound. There are moments of deep empathy and understanding, which undercuts the horror themes. HDD2U is more of a sci-fi teen adventure. The focus is on the time jumping details, not bloody carnage.
Christopher Landon returns as writer and director. I give him credit for making HDD2U a smarter than expected sequel. He extrapolates on the events of the first film, adding a bit of creativity and a lot of heart. We still get characters running foolishly alone in the dark, but the bloodletting is still PG-13 safe. The mystery of finding the killer isn’t an exercise in torture porn. Landon makes Tree a more complex character, which in turn allows Jessica Rothe to show range. She’s more than a scream queen. The humor and warmth between the ensemble is an unexpected improvement.
HDD2U is not a hardcore entry in Jason Blum’s horror portfolio. It bends towards sci-fi with a few laughs and a co-ed romance. The babyface killer won’t have you jumping out of your seat. If that’s what you’re looking for in this film, you will be disappointed. HDD2U isn’t terrifying in the least. I do think fans of the original will be entertained by the overall experience. It’s funny with likeable characters. Happy Death Day 2U is a Blumhouse production with distribution by Universal. Stick around after the credits.