Let's Go Round Again
Warning: This review alludes to plot points. Do not read unless you’ve already lived through a screening.
Happy Death Day was a moderately successful high-concept Blumhouse horror flick that added a stalk and slash twist to Groundhog Day’s plot. Jessica Rothe’s imperilled student tried to unmask the maniac sporting the university’s babyface mascot mask, before they killed her and reset her day. Moderate thrills, enlivened by a likeable star, ensued. When director Christopher Landon got a sequel order he probably wondered what else there was to do, except remake the original. Thankfully for us and him, he and co-writer Scott Lobdell were minded to be a great deal more inventive, and the result is highly enjoyable expansion of the first movie which avoids the trap – a particular risk for this series – of merely repeating what’s come before.
Landon and Lobdell deserve credit for taking a broad and silly horror cum sci-fi movie seriously, taking their cue from the in-film referenced Back to the Future Part II. They’ve fashioned a story that rewards audiences who remember the first film (though a useful recap is provided), while building on the premise to move the characters forward. Thus, an on-campus technological solution for the seemingly random time loop phenomenon of Happy Death Day is introduced from the off, allaying fears the sequel would simply follow Phi Vu’s character on a similar adventure, and consequently bit characters from the first loop are utilised in new ways, relationships recast in the finest time meddling, dimension shifting tradition, and the identity of the serial killer from Part I changes, ensuring the Blumhouse gore whore contingent isn’t neglected in the change up.
Consequently, we get a movie that succeeds on its own terms, plying its shtick with knowing humour, irreverence, and even a dab of human interest. In short, if you ever have a hit horror movie and you’re forced to fast-track a sequel before its forgotten, dropping to your knees and worshiping the twin gods of expansion and complication is a good strategy.
Once again, Jessica Rothe is the glue that holds the silliness together, managing to be both funny and affecting in the midst of talk on subjects as diverse as serial suicide, parallel universes, killers, and destiny. If Landon had trusted his audience a little more, and been minded to add wit to the jokes and shading to the characters, this might have been a genre flick on par with some of the ‘80’s hits it affectionately evokes. Instead, it’s just great fun. Part 3 anyone?