Watching “Happy Death Day 2U” was a surreal experience that I still can’t quite wrap my head around. I thoroughly enjoyed the first film — its humorous spin on the slasher genre presented a certain self-awareness that I appreciate in modern cinema. However, having seen the trailers for the second film, I went in with low expectations — I mean, I can count the number of good horror sequels on one hand. I thought it would lose the qualities I so admired in the firm installment of the series, as sequels often do. The horror-comedy has a similar plot structure to its predecessor, following Tree Gelbman as she gets stuck reliving her birthday over and over again, all while being chased by a killer. In this film, she is trapped in a parallel universe and must stop the murderer in order to return to her real life. “Happy Death Day 2U” tries to recreate the magic of the first film, heavily relying on its cheesiness and slapstick in order to please the audience, which, unfortunately, doesn’t always seem to work.
The pacing of this movie is one of its worst features. The introduction and conclusion take up about 30 minutes, leaving 70 to slowly drag the plot along. The film becomes extremely repetitive, adding in superfluous scenes to fill up the remaining time. The characters explain concepts to an almost insufferable degree, all of which combine to take up an embarrassing amount of the movie. There is a montage of Tree dying in different ways for about 10 minutes. There are an excessive number of shots of people doing math, which barely fits into a slasher movie at all. About 20 minutes could have been cut from this movie and it would make absolutely no difference. Instead, “Happy Death Day 2U” wastes my, and the rest of the theater’s, time.
The pacing fits well, however, only when considering that the plot of the movie is one of the most convoluted I have ever seen, teetering on incomprehensible. Now, this is not necessarily a bad thing; convoluted plots can be incredibly fascinating and ultimately satisfying, but here I found myself thinking, “This makes no sense,” and, “This is dumb,” several times throughout my viewing. The setup to Tree getting stuck in an alternate dimension was definitely a reach: A quantum reactor explodes because a parallel version of one of the characters tries to destroy it, sticking only Tree into a different world. The entire body of the movie is no better. It’s confusing and tested my patience on several occasions, but I was willing to forgive, hoping the ending would be worth it. But when the killer was revealed, and there was literally no information up to that point that could have indicated who it was, I gave up. It felt like the screenwriters suddenly remembered, two-thirds of the way through the movie, that they had to reveal the murderer’s identity, so they chose someone at random. The film is full of these frustrating, ridiculously unpredictable moments, which all barely connect to form a coherent narrative.
The best thing “Happy Death Day 2U” has going for it is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. This is a shallow, superficial film. Any argument made to the contrary ignores almost every scene, including the one where a sorority president pretends to be blind to steal the dean of the university’s keys, breaking his nose in the process. This superficiality lends itself to the overall tone, working in tandem with its nonsensical plot. The filmmakers know that this won’t be the next “Psycho,” and they don’t try to make it so. They find creative, absurd ways for Tree to die, including jumping out of an airplane in a bikini. They have characters break the fourth wall and flip off the audience. This film is entertainingly ridiculous, and aside from a few attempted emotional interjections, the film generally acknowledges its lack of depth and adapts to it. They up the cheese-factor, infusing the film with an exaggerated, cheap sense of humor that appeals to their teen-oriented demographic. I, as a teen, can genuinely say I laughed during this movie. It wasn’t a well-earned laugh, but a laugh it was.
This is not a good movie, by any means, but it is a fun one if you can ignore plot holes galore. I can’t say that I would recommend it to anyone over the age of 17, but if you’re looking to take your 13-year-old cousin to a movie, this could be an option.
Contact Kaycee Branche at kcb22 ‘at’ stanford.edu.