Happy Death Day 2U seems to have stirred up the horror community lately. There is a split of opinion as to whether or not the sequel actually qualifies as “horror.” On top of that, there seem to be some fans that are disappointed that this film seems to have leaned into the comedic element more so than its predecessor.
I had the pleasure of watching this latest installment this weekend, and I am happy to report that I had a blast! Blumhouse is continually surprising with low-budget films that are original and unpredictable. To me, these are some of the qualities that I look for in a movie…especially when you’ve seen as many horror films as us horror fans do.
So here it is: my (spoiler free!) breakdown on why Happy Death Day 2U makes for the sequel that we could all use right now.
Jessica Rothe makes a perfect final girl for Women in Horror Month
Jessica Rothe’s Tree is a final girl that we all need to take note of. Her character fully embraces what a modern final girl should be. She is smart, funny, and brave. Even better, she plays an active role in her fate. There is no sense that she has survived this long via process of elimination. She doesn’t have an arbitrary set of personal characteristics that label her the designated survivor. She is an ass-kicker, plain and simple. She has a story, she has emotions, and she is defined by more than the situation that she is in, Like in the first one, she learns from all of her previous runs through the loop, meaning we don’t get these moments where we roll our eyes and think how stupid that decision is.
Since when do we need a sequel to just be more of the same?
Isn’t the chief complaint behind remakes that they ruin the original? And isn’t the chief complaint behind sequels in horror franchises that they tend to feel like more of the same? In this case, both complaints would apply had Happy Death Day 2U followed the same pattern as the original. The first movie is about a girl trapped in a loop, destined to die over and over again until she finds her killer. It is a movie about repeating our fates until we get it right. She got it at the end of the first, so the second movie following this pattern would literally be the same movie. I loved the first Happy Death Day; if I need to watch it again I can without watching a sequel. Going in to a sequel and being surprised should be what we love; it’s also the reason that by the time franchises get to ten or so entries that they start to lose steam. New concepts and twists are always welcome in my book.
Mixing up the genres is always great
I don’t really understand the objections to genre mash-ups. The beauty of how horror is evolving is that it can tell a multitude of stories a multitude of different ways. This film did embrace sci-fi, as well as the humour elements, pretty hard. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not a slasher at its core. Granted, the slasher elements are not at the heart of this movie as they were in the first one, and perhaps that is what people object to. But not leaning in to the humour element in this one makes no sense. By the midpoint of the first film, her frustration grows as she is killed again and again to the point where her deaths are set to a musical montage. Having her start with shock, awe and fear all over again would make absolutely zero sense at the start of this installment. Since Tree is an established character, it makes a lot more sense to embrace these elements and focus on building her emotional side, rather than start fresh with a new character and have her be just a guide. I don’t know about you, but to me Tree is the character that makes this franchise, and I don’t want to see her shoved aside to make room for a new character following the exact path we’ve already seen.
Franchises are made to be fun!
As I mentioned before, franshises eventually hit the point of no return on the sheer ridiculous entertainment value. Why not embrace that fact early and make a sequel that is there for pure entertainment that is still true to the original characters? No one is saying that this movie was made to break boundaries in horror. No one is even saying that it is superior to the original, which it most definitely is not. All I’m saying is that it is so refreshing to see a sequel embrace its silliness and try to do something a little bit different with its own material. It’s February, guys. The weather is bleak. The snow won’t go away. And the news breaks my heart or makes me boil with rage on a daily basis. Embrace this goofy, escapist, pseudo-slasher, already! Do what I did: bring some pals, hit the theater, laugh your asses off, and just enjoy the ride!
And if you still can’t get past the humour aspect, can we all please just remember that in Jason Lives, he hurls a hunter against a tree and leaves a smiley face behind, and we all loved it?