Film Review – Happy Death Day 2U
Happy Death Day 2U
In my review of Happy Death Day (2017) I wrote, “There’s that strange phenomenon in which a horror film is so goofy that it almost plays better as a dark comedy. Happy Death Day is a prime example.”
The exact same thing can be said for its follow up, Happy Death Day 2U (2019). In it, we follow the exact same characters, during the exact same day, dealing with the exact same masked killer hunting them down. Christopher Landon comes back as director, as well as sharing co-writing credit with Scott Lobdell (also returning). This isn’t so much a sequel to the first entry as it is a direct extension of the same story. You could edit the two together to make a three-hour epic and it would flow pretty smoothly (other than all the actors aging two years).
You have to feel for the main character, Tree (Jessica Rothe). Here she is stuck in a time loop in which she has to live her birthday over and over again, with each cycle restarting once she kicks the bucket. It’s tough enough being a college student, but it’s a whole other beast having to be college student, having to avoid being killed by a psychopath with a baby mask, and dealing with that situation multiple times in a row.
Going back to my review of the first film, I wrote of Jessica Rothe, “She commits to her role, whether it calls for her to be a hapless murder victim, a sleuth, cruel or compassionate, vulnerable or strong, Rothe takes each requirement and runs with it.” Once again, Rothe shines in her performance. She isn’t so much terrified being stuck in the loop again as she is annoyed and frustrated. Some of the funniest moments comes with her facial expressions, blurting out in anger with wonderful glee. Tree is not your typical “Scream Queen,” but an actual character who is smart, clever, and determined. I hope what Rothe has done so far with this character will catch the attention of other filmmakers, showing that she is fully capable of handling a wide range of emotions, whether dramatic or comedic.
We would assume that this would be yet another horror showcase, but the narrative plays much closer to a sci-fi comedy. In fact, the whole bit with the killer is almost an afterthought. The majority of the plot has Tree, nice guy Carter (Israel Broussard), and science students Ryan (Phi Vu), Samar (Suraj Sharma), and Dre (Sarah Yarkin) trying to figure out how to stop the time loop. There’s a pretty funny joke where their situation is compared to that of Marty McFly in Back to the Future Part II (1989). To make things even more complicated, Ryan discovers that not only is there a time issue, but an inter-dimensional issue as well. Somehow, Tree got stuck in a parallel universe where certain details of her life are not the same as they were before. This is done for two reasons: 1) It allows the story to mask the identity of the killer this time around, and 2) it adds a surprisingly emotional twist regarding Tree’s family. The second part is especially interesting, given that said twist makes Tree reconsider whether or not she actually wants to go back to her own dimension.
Time loops, multi-verses, killers, pep rallies and sorority meetings – this is all pretty hokey stuff, and Landon and his team treats it as such. In certain scenes, Landon goes fully over the top with the sci-fi elements. When a science experiment goes wrong and causes an explosion, he opts to switch the action into extreme slow motion, adding exaggerated music to punctuate the silliness of the moment. Happy Death Day was not very scary, and Happy Death Day 2U even less so. The murder scenes have no tension or suspense to the point that Tree – having to solve the riddle of the time loop – ends up not needing the killer’s help to restart the day anyway. Another comedic moment has Tree skydiving without a parachute, giving the camera a particular “salute” as she hurtles back to Earth. It’s like the narrative doesn’t even care for the murderer at all.
Like I said in my previous review, “If you’re looking for something to get your scared, then you’ve come to the wrong place…[Happy Death Day]’s appeal lies in how it fully embraces the cheesiness of its main premise.” That’s Happy Death Day 2U in a nutshell as well. There isn’t anything going on here that would hint toward being a timeless classic, but the film doesn’t aim to be so. It offers a fun, entertaining time, and is headed by a strong central performance by an actress that will hopefully be a household name someday. This is one of those gather your friends, order some pizza, and enjoy a laugh for two hours type of flicks. It doesn’t overstay its welcome, which is something a lot of films fail at, so there you go. I can only hope for Happy Death Day 45, in which these characters relive the same day but all the actors are now middle aged. That would be something.