Oh, no… this is going to be a déjà vu experience again. Given the surprise box-office success of Christopher Landon’s Happy Death Day two years ago, it is inevitable that we will be getting a sequel. And as you know, most sequels — specifically the horror genre — tend to suffer from the dreaded “sequelitis” syndrome. Or to put it in a layman’s term, inferior sequels.
Besides, Landon could have taken the easy route: just recycled the same time-loop formula from the first movie and repackaged it with a different location and scenario. I was initially expecting Happy Death Day 2U to be a more-of-the-same experience. But instead, I was surprised how great it actually turned out to be. Even better than I imagined. Or more precisely, better than the 2017 original. Which is really saying a lot for a would-be formulaic and repetitive horror sequel that I have little expectations in the first place.
Here’s the brief synopsis of the sequel: Tree (Jessica Rothe) finds herself unexpectedly relive the same torturous experience again. And this time, it has something to do with her friend’s (Phi Vu’s Ryan Phan) certain science project.
Christopher Landon, who also took double duties as a screenwriter this time around, certainly had a field day toying around the story’s time loop element. Even without the original scribe Scott Lobdell returning for the second round, Landon does a tremendous job blending different genres into one movie with enough playful vibes. Put it this way: it’s like watching horror and sci-fi at the same time, with Landon particularly pays brilliant homage to Back to the Future Part II (1989). Sure, the elaborate time-loop storyline tends to get a little convoluted but Landon is smart enough to keep the pace swift and energetic enough that holds your attention throughout the movie.
Although Happy Death Day 2U is leaning more to sci-fi element, Landon doesn’t forget about the horror part. And for that, he delivers with a couple of effective jolts along with well-staged, stalk-and-slash setpieces. Landon even goes the Scream route, complete with guess-who’s-the-killer-this-time-around whodunit and red herrings.
But what surprises me the most is Landon somehow manages to elicit some unexpectedly emotional moments into his otherwise eccentric horror movie. This is particularly evident during the scenes where Jessica Rothe’s Tree is forced to make a tough decision between choosing her mom or her boyfriend (Israel Broussard’s Carter).
It also helps that the young cast committed to their roles well enough, starting with Jessica Rothe’s engaging performance as Tree. She is again the anchor of this sequel who previously made the first movie such a wickedly fun experience to watch for. Only this time, I’m glad the supporting cast is finally given ample chances to live up to their respective characters rather than reducing to underwritten roles like the original. This includes Israel Broussard, Phi Vu and Rachel Matthews who both reprised their roles as Carter Davis, Ryan Phan and Danielle Bouseman respectively.
Just like the first movie, Happy Death Day 2U proved to be a surprise gem of a genre-bending horror movie. By far, this is one of the most entertaining movies I’ve ever seen this year. And do remember to stick around during the end credits since there will be a mid-credit teaser leading to a third film.