Happy Death Day 2U (2019)

“What the hell is going on here?”

More trial and error than it ever is thoughtfully or thoroughly executed, Happy Death Day 2U is a pitch perfect example of how to not make a sequel. It’s heavily derivative yet also completely incongruous, literally repeating story beats while infusing a brand new tone to the entire picture, evolving into something more and devolving into something so appallingly less all at once. Happy Death Day 2U revolves around incomplete, often incoherent ideas, and it’s the type of movie that tries way too hard to be smart for its own dumb sake. It’s like watching a self-proclaimed genius pick up a book on scientific theory, except they’re holding it upside down.

For two reasons, you technically don’t have to see the first film to fully understand HDD2U. First off, the story does an adequate job retracing the perils of Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe), the once upon a time mean girl who got trapped in a time loop where she was murdered by someone wearing her college’s creepy baby mascot mask. Second, and more importantly, this sequel just doesn’t make a lot of sense conceptually, so trying to understand its mechanics and logic – or lack thereof – is a largely fruitless and pointless endeavor. You could put a gun against my head and threaten to pull the trigger unless I gave an accurate summary of this movie’s plot, and there’s a zero percent chance I’d survive. Hell, I doubt I’d even get half of it right.

HDD2U ditches the first entry’s slasher aspect for the most part, substituting in a bizarre and borderline inept attempt to explain away the inexplicable time loop continuum through a science fiction mindset. Whereas the original film excellently executed its high-concept rendition of Groundhog Day, this sequel tries to bake and to serve the pot brownie recipe that jump-started everything in the first place. By temporarily shifting the POV from Tree to that of her boyfriend Carter’s (Israel Broussard) roommate Ryan (Phi Vu), as well as introducing multiple universes in which the story takes place, the whole thing becomes uneven and unfocused and increasingly unhinged.

At this point you could probably guess that I absolutely hated HDD2U, and that’s coming from someone who was unexpectedly surprised by how much fun there was to be had during 2017’s Happy Death Day. I can even appreciate the sequel’s willingness to go for broke and redefine the franchise in the process. But that doesn’t excuse its sheer ineptitude either. Happy Death Day 2U provides rebuttals in the spaces where smarter, equally ambitious movies would offer tried and true answers, and the film mistakes aspirations for actual achievement. Suffice to say that this one barely deserves a congratulatory participation medal. I’m already dreading this sisyphean franchise’s third – and hopefully final – planned installment.

“I am so done with this s***.”

Rating: 1.5 out of 5

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