It's PG-13 horror. It's not Hostel or Saw gory, but it has some substantial gore. Again, with the premise, I suppose it is better seeing a million deaths knowing that the protagonist gets up again. But also, that allows for an absolutely insane kill count. I am probably going to talk about it when I actually start writing this nonsense, but why does Tree feel the need to vary her death? Find one that hurts the least and stick with it. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Christopher Landon
I thought I found the unicorn, guys. I started watching the movie and thought, "Oh my gosh. The odd desire to watch Happy Death Day just so I could watch Happy Death Day 2U totally paid off." I mean, if you can read my intentions behind my writing, you'll know that I failed ultimately. Like Lost, another movie that didn't quite know how to wrap everything up, I enjoyed Happy Death Day 2U until I realized that none of it came together and they just showed cool ideas with no idea how to explain them.
Why is it that a terrible ending can ruin a movie that I enjoyed while watching it? Seriously. I watched it in two shifts. (It's really hard to watch horror with little kids and a wife who is thoroughly over anything scary.) During the first half, I started trying to find ways to get my wife to watch the first one. I know. It is an insane battle. I happened to enjoy the first film, but I thought that the second one was going to elevate the first one to such a payoff, that I wanted to watch it with someone else so we could discuss. (I have these epic fantasies, guys. I live in a dreamworld where people get excited about genre and then immediately have to talk about it for two hours.) But then I watched the second half of the movie. It's not a bad second half. It's a bad last-ten-minutes. Do you know why it is a bad last ten minutes? It's because the movie promised to break my brain open and then didn't do any of that. I'm going to be really specific and spoilery, but this cannot go unheeded. Apparently, there's a second killer and he's going after Ryan. I love that. Ryan being stuck in an alternate loop with Tree as a guide is a great idea. But Tree, because she's an expert at timeloops and discovering how to break them gets the killer caught almost immediately. And then we discover that there is another Ryan from an alternate timeline. I adore this too. Keep going. Alternate Ryan apparently has to kill this Ryan or things will get way worse. The rest of the movie is Tree being re-stuck in her old loop and the killer is someone different. It goes into parallel universes and questions of morality and everything I love about good time travel movies. But the whole Ryan thing is never cleared up. Alternate universe Ryan doesn't actually explain why killing the initial Ryan would be good for the timelines. We never actually go back to that moment again.
It's such a grievous error that the special features actually addressed it. There's a special feature on the Blu-Ray that tries to explain the time travel. But to be cheeky and to ignore the fact that there's a criminally annoying plothole in the film, when it gets to alternate Ryan, it just says "WTF is going on here" or something. That's how bad it is. I know that the marketing team who put together the fairly superficial special features for the disc were confused. You know that writer / director Christopher Landon also knew this. The bigger problem that genre storytelling tends to do is to put something in the film that's cool without a care for the larger story. I know. I'm sounding like a real old man. I'm a real Martin Scorsese or Francis Ford Coppola here. Remember how Francis Ford Coppola directed a mediocre version of Dracula? Yeah, you keep telling me that superhero movies are the problem. I'm sorry, I'm very worked up about this. Landon knew that he wanted to have a jaw dropping moment, a 'la Lost, but did nothing to earn it whatsoever. I adore that the movie throws Tree into a time loop. I think that's really interesting. I even kinda sorta like that Ryan's story isn't the central timeloop of the movie. Okay, that's all fine. But the movie owed me something and that was an explanation and a consequence for such a dramatic "you got me" moment. Honestly, having George Washington under the baby mask would have actually been a better answer than alternate dimension Ryan because at least we knew that the movie was messing with us. The only thing that alternate dimension Ryan adds to the story is the first hint that alternate dimensions exist. It's a real bummer and it ruined a movie that is actually pretty fun.
The reason why Groundhog Day works so well is because it brought to the genre the effective time loop movie. But everyone else who has done the time loop story has stayed within the parameters of Groundhog Day. The biggest draw to Happy Death Day 2U was that it finally felt like it was breaking out of the mold that Groundhog Day had established. Like Back to the Future II, which the film name drops for a callback, the sequel should both acknowledge the best elements of the first movie while being almost a different film in terms of genre. Back to the Future is a remarkably complex time travel film, but ultimately has a light-hearted tone that sticks the science fiction in the background. Back to the Future II puts the science fiction stuff front and center. The same stuff happens in Happy Death Day 2U, but it doesn't have the tight scripting that the first movie does. A lot of people don't like BTTF II, but I adore that film. I almost got to the point of adoring Happy Death Day 2U, but it just completely botched the goodwill that the first parts of the films began with.
This means that I have to watch Happy Death Day 2U with the knowledge that it can't be evaluated as something that really changes the game. Instead, I have to watch it as a horror movie. It markets itself as a horror movie, so I now have to look at it from that perspective. From that perspective, it is really weak compared to the first film. I had the killer spoiled for me by the trailer to this movie. I know. That's a crime in itself. But the first movie actually creates a fairly cool mystery and cool atmosphere while having a tongue-in-cheek attitude towards death. The sequel has a lot of the tonal copying. It is very light in tone. But the lightness in tone is appreciated because the rest of the film is so serious. There is a way to actually solve the mystery of the first movie. One can pick up clues in the various time loops that allow the viewer to piece together who did what and why. It helped that I already knew who did it, but the pieces were there. The reveal of the killer in the second movie (not Ryan), is almost completely arbitrary to the time travel element of the story. It almost seems like that was an alternate ending to the first film and the pieces kinda / sorta fit. But the big reveal wasn't at all interesting. When Ryan is revealed as the initial killer, it changed the rules for how things were supposed to play out in the whodunnit. But the movie desperately tries getting the genie back in the bottle and return back to normal. Revealing the professor to be the killer (I TOLD YOU I WAS GOING TO DO THIS) is not only disappointing, but it is a distraction from the greater center of the film. Yeah, I like that alternate Lori actually makes a bit more character sense and that she's allowed to play something else besides the role that made her a bit of a caricature. But to do that, it had to rely on other tropes. It's a bummer.
If I went back in time and told myself that Lost would end in a disappointing fashion, I don't know if I would have stuck around for it. But I really enjoyed the journey of watching Lost. Heck, it also made me more culturally literate. I enjoyed watching Happy Death Day 2U, but I wish I had known that it wouldn't stick the landing. I probably would still watch it, knowing that the ending was going to be a bummer. But I could have watched it for the schlock it ended up being.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.