Release Date(s)2019 (May 14, 2019)
Studio(s)Blumhouse Productions/Universal Pictures (Universal Studios Home Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: D+
[Editor’s Note: This review contains spoilers.]
In Happy Death Day, a selfish and narcissistic college girl named Tree winds up stuck in a time loop, reliving the same events of the day of her birthday over and over again, including her eventual death at the hands of an unknown killer. She must eventually end the loop by learning to be a better person while falling in love with a nice guy named Carter and outwitting her killer.
In the sequel, Happy Death Day 2U, things pick up exactly where they left off. Tree learns that while her loop was been closed, it has opened on another student, whose science project gone awry just happened to create the original loop. After an accident occurs in which the scientific device in question is used once again, she finds herself back in her original loop, but in another version of her universe where things may be different, but campus serial killers are still rampant.
When the sequel to Happy Death Day was announced, I really didn’t know what to expect from it. After all, how much more plot could be squeezed out of a Groundhog Day type premise mixed with horror elements? Once the repetition ends, the story should really be over – it’s a one and done. Director Christopher Landon took up the challenge to create a sequel that not only explains the how and why of the first film, but also re-examines the characters and their relationships with each other, including the revelation that in this version of Tree’s timeline, her Mom is alive and her boyfriend Carter is dating somebody else. There’s also less of an emphasis on the slasher formula and more on situational comedy within a science fiction framework.
In all fairness, there are some effective moments in Happy Death Day 2U, mostly involving Tree and her mother which are genuinely tear-inducing. It’s also nice to see events from the first film from a different angle, ALA Back to the Future Part II, including those that take place concurrently with Tree’s own. Like before, Jessica Rothman is charismatic and likable, and always the best thing about these movies. She manages to play a variety of emotions with relative ease and you’re on her side at all times, regardless of what’s going on in the story.
That all said, I personally don’t like knowing the how and why of the first film. While the story makes an attempt to explain and defend itself in an expository scene early on (which borders on meta), it only cheapens Tree’s original victory. She’s no longer the troubled girl having proved herself worthy of survival. Now she’s a cosmic joke, doomed to live a repetitious existence. While it’s true that getting the chance to spend time with her long-dead mother is the crowning jewel of the story, it doesn’t make up for a slightly convoluted plot involving multiple character timelines.
It’s also worth noting that most people showing up for a sequel to a slasher film are going to be caught off guard by its dramatic/sci-fi/comedic bent. There are succinct moments of horror, but even when there’s a chance for a surprising amount of blood to be spilled, it’s thwarted by the comedy. Further complications include actors from the first film who didn’t have much of a role to play have been brought back and are not at all compelling now that their parts have been expanded. And a credits sequence reminiscent of a Marvel movie, complete with a cover of The Bee Gees’ Stayin’ Alive, is downright wretch-inducting – never mind the tongue-in-cheek mid-credits scene that leaves the door open for another sequel.
To be clear, Happy Death Day 2U is not a bad movie at all. It’s just ill-conceived and feels more like a piece of fan fiction than a proper follow-up. The story was satisfyingly over at the end of the first film, but now there’s a sequel in which Tree must choose a life in which her mother is alive or Carter is no longer her boyfriend... yeah, there’s no choice to make there. Making matters worse, right on the verge of Tree going back to her reality, her and that version of Carter reconnect anyways. It’s part and parcel as to why this second film doesn’t totally work for me.
For Universal’s Blu-ray release of the film, there’s little to complain about when it comes to its superlative presentation of its digital source. Detail is high, colors are robust, blacks are inky deep, contrast is perfect, and there are no major flaws, encoding or otherwise. The only real flaws are inherent in the film itself, including some slightly dodgy CGI that doesn’t blend with the live action all that well. The transfer itself is more than adequate.
The audio is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD, Spanish & French 5.1 DTS Surround, and English 2.0 DVS, with optional subtitles in English SDH, Spanish, and French. The 5.1 track doesn’t offer a textbook presentation, but it’s quite immersive, including frequent uses of college campus ambiance, frequent low end activity, and hard-hitting sound effects. Dialogue is always prioritized well and the film’s score and song selection provides plenty of depth without distortion.
Unfortunately, the extras leave much to be desired. They include a 2 1/2-minute gag reel; a 2-minute deleted scene of Tree running into another cop in the hospital, which would have also set up part of the film’s ending; The Never-Ending Birthday, a 3-minute featurette which interviews some of the cast and crew about the ideas for the sequel; Web of Love: Tree’s Nightmare, a 1 1/2-minute featurette that explores the relationship between Tree and Carter; Multiverse 101, a rather useless 2-minute featurette that recaps and oversimplifies the film’s plot; a DVD copy; a paper insert with a Digital HD code; and previews for the home video releases of Glass, Fighting with Your Family, and Serenity, all of which open the disc.
Happy Death Day 2U presents a mix of great character moments, but within a framework that isn’t entirely enjoyable. The Blu-ray release of the film offers a solid A/V experience, but with lackluster extras to back it up.
– Tim Salmons