Film

Review: Junk Science and a Pinch of Absurdity Make Happy Death Day 2U A Killer Sequel

It only took the good folks at Blumhouse a year and four months (to the day) to release the sequel to the surprise comedy-horror hit Happy Death Day, which is a remarkable turnaround time. The good news is that Happy Death Day 2U is actually quite a bit funnier and more ridiculous than the first film, and while it seems to have sacrificed scares for laughs, the tradeoff feels worth it as the fun factor is increased to fill the void.

Happy Death Day

Image courtesy of Universal Pictures.

The story continues the college adventures of Tree Gelbman (the delightful Jessica Rothe), who spent most of the first film reliving the same day (her birthday), during which she was stalked and murdered by a slasher in a baby mask. She broke the cycle by uncovering the killer’s identity and killing them. This time around, it’s her friend Ryan (Phi Vu) whose life is sent into a loop, which is reset every time he’s murdered by the same killer. How can that be? Well, if I had one complaint about 2U, it’s that it actually reveals how the loop in Tree’s life was created in the first place and why it seems to have been transferred to Ryan. It turns out that Ryan and his lab partners, Samar (Suraj Sharma) and Anna (Sarah Bennani) created a machine for their thesis project which inadvertently creates time loops around certain people. That doesn’t exactly explain how Tree became its first test subject, but in an attempt to re-create the experiment, the machine flashes and poor Tree is sent back to her original birthday time loop, or so she thinks.

It turns out that this version of her birthday is set in a slightly different parallel universe where certain things are very different than the timeline we’re familiar with. There is still a mask-wearing killer, but it’s not the same person; Tree’s mother is still very much alive; and her boyfriend Carter (Israel Broussard) is not dating her snooty sorority sister Danielle (Rachel Matthews), which bums out Tree a great deal, but she has far too many other problems going on to focus on it. Every time she dies, she must re-explain her dilemma to the team of nerds who are the only ones who can set things right (she hopes), but she’s hesitant to return to her original timeline because she doesn’t want to lose her mother again.

Once she realizes that she doesn’t have to wait to be killed to restart the timeline, this leads to a series of hilarious suicides that hasten the loop reset and only add to the film’s free-spirited, loopy nature. As things wind down, the new killer’s identity is revealed, and the plot appears ready to send Tree back “home,” the movie loses a bit of steam, but it admittedly makes up for a lot that energy drain with a ridiculously fun mid-credits scene.

Not unlike the first film, Happy Death Day 2U gets by on its energy and well-intentioned, insane fun with junk science. Returning writer/director Christopher Landon (Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones) has a real sense of comedic timing, but more importantly, he seems to know exactly when it’s okay to cross the line into absurdity and still have it be legitimately entertaining. It helps that it’s impossible not to love being the company of Rothe; her irreverence for the horror genre is refreshing. She will never be the helpless victim, and her fighting spirit keeps us rooting for her and completely engaged in the film.

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