The first Happy Death Day was a fun comedy-horror that followed Tree (Theresa), a college girl being stalked and killed by someone in a baby mascot mask. Only she doesn’t stay dead, and her day constantly repeats itself like Groundhog Day, so she has to keep dying until the killer is caught to stop the time loop.
The first Happy Death Day became a surprise hit, making a lot of money, as well as earning praise for its fun premise and the performance of lead actress Jessica Rothe and development of her character, from an unlikeable slasher film blonde archetype to a selfless badass heroine.
Happy Death Day 2U, the sequel, picks up right where the first film leaves off. Tree discovers her boyfriend Carter’s roommate is going through a similar loop and it’s revealed what caused it in the first place. However, something goes wrong and Tree is transported back into the time loop, only things are different this time – she’s now looping in a parallel universe.
Characters she knows have different relationships with each other, and the killer from the last film is not the killer this time – there’s a different killer in a baby mask. Despite this, Tree makes a discovery that makes her believe this alternate reality could be better for her than the original.
While this is still a comedy and semi-parody, the horror and slasher elements are downplayed a bit and there is a large emphasis on science-fiction. In addition to the Groundhog Day formula there’s a lot inspiration from Back To The Future with the time-travel and alternate reality, as well as of straight-up winks.
Like in the first film, we get treated to a montage of Tree dying, but instead of being murdered this time, she constantly kills herself to deliberately reset the time loop. It’s a fun montage, even sillier than the original as she finds over-the-top ways to kill herself.
There are also several call-backs to the first film, with lots of scenes being a rehash with twists and turns. It’s also great that they managed to get a lot of the same actors in minor roles that Tree constantly encounters during her time loops.
Jessica Rothe gets to continue Tree’s character growth as she has to make a really difficult decision, one that could even split the audience. She also gets to see other characters, even the first film’s killer, in a different angle, which helps give her gain more perspective. Rothe is really talented she handles the dramatic elements beautifully; there’s a scene here especially where she really tugs at your heartstrings.
She’s also very funny, she handles all her comedic timings perfectly. Israel Broussard still has great chemistry with Rothe, which helps push the central romance even further. Also returning actors Rachel Matthews, Ruby Modine and Phil Vu get to do more with their roles, especially Matthews, who is so absolutely hilarious as Danielle that I nearly fell out of my chair at one point.
There are a few flaws, however. The reveal of the killer is not built up as well as the first, and it feels more like a last minute re-write, more like a parody of the first film. The plot itself is a bit convoluted in that it does have you scratching your head in parts. There’s also a reveal in the first act that doesn’t really get explained and feels like it’s setting a different story - maybe this will come into play in a possible third film.
Despite its flaws, this is a great sequel that doesn’t just rehash the story. It takes it to a new level, and Tree’s character gets to develop further.
Here’s hoping they deliver a third film that they’re teasing and give us a quality trilogy.
Written by Jack Parish