Happy Death Day was the surprise horror hit of 2017 – its lighthearted campiness, surprising emotion, and fantastic lead performance all intertwined to make for a fun, entertaining, not-too-scary horror fest. A sequel was immediately put into production, and fans of the first film will be delighted to know that Happy Death Day 2U, if its silly title is any indication, is just as good of a time as the first. The sequel takes its time travel/time loop concept and runs even further with it than it did before, and in doing so is able to shatter the constraints of its genre.
The film picks up immediately where the first one left off. Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) has finally broken free of her time loop, where she was stuck reliving the day of her murder over and over again until she figured out who was killing her and why. Only a day or two later however, Ryan (Phi Vu), the roommate of Tree’s boyfriend, Carter (Israel Broussard), finds himself trapped in his own time loop, also being forced to relive the day of his murder. Thanks to Tree having prior experience with this kind of thing, the gang discovers the cause of these fluxes in time (I won’t spoil it here), but their attempts to put an end to it only end up making things worse.
Happy Death Day 2U leans fully into its wacky premise and is able to have a lot more fun and freedom than its predecessor. It’s certainly more self-aware and funnier than the first. In fact, it ditches most of the horror elements completely in favor of more humor (which lands most of the time but can also feel like it’s trying too hard) and an embrace of the science-fiction genre. Horror fans shouldn’t fret too much though – this sequel basically solidifies the Happy Death Day series as a modern day Scream. The dark comedic style of the movie is extremely welcome to help break up the monotony of most horror flicks.
Tree ends up trapped yet again in an endless loop of the day of her death, but things are slightly different than before. Her life has changed, people in her life know each other when they previously didn’t, and Tree finds herself in a dilemma of whether or not she prefers this timeline or her original one. That in itself is an interesting idea to present, that if you had the chance to live in an alternate reality where your life played out a little differently and you made different choices, would you rather stay there? Or would you rather go back to the life you knew and the cards you were dealt? Thanks to yet another brilliant performance from Rothe, the film has even more emotional depth than the first, and the relationships between the characters (everyone from the first film is back) feel richer and more realized.
Happy Death Day 2U answers every single question that the first left hanging and expands on its concept in a satisfying enough way, but some things feel like missed opportunities. The film never goes far enough with its wacky time loop hijinks. You could easily go crazy and make things bigger and zanier, and the sequel does do this to a degree, but in a post-Rick and Morty and similar science-fiction stories world, there’s a lot that Happy Death Day could do with the ideas it presents. It simply seems content with rehashing the same beats as the first film, albeit in slightly different ways, but by the end of it you’re left wanting just a bit more from it.
Thankfully, it seems like there are plans to keep the franchise going. If you stick around for the mid-credits scene, you’ll be rewarded with a setup for a third film that seems like it’s going to give fans exactly what they want: even sillier time travel shenanigans. The Happy Death Day series, like Scream before it, has successfully turned the slasher genre on its head, and delivered another highly entertaining thrill ride. This franchise shouldn’t be underestimated – it’s just way too much fun.
Happy Death 2U answers all of the first film’s unanswered questions and has way more fun with its wacky time loop murder concept in an extremely entertaining way.
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