It hasn’t even been two years since the surprisingly good Happy Death Day, from Universal and Blumhouse, hit theaters. From the initial trailers, it seemed like a slasher version of Groundhog Day, an opinion shared by most everyone, including the film’s own characters. However, it turned out to be much better than we thought. With a healthy dose of humor and Jessica Rothe’s spot-on performance, the first film became more of a comedic parody of slasher conventions than a traditional slasher film. Now, we’ve returned to the world of time looped serial killers in Happy Death Day 2U.
Picking up immediately after the events of the first film, Tree (Jessica Rothe) thinks her life is back to normal, having stopped her murderous roommate Lori (Ruby Modine) and broken free of her time loop. However, when classmate Ryan (Phi Vu) finds himself trapped in a similar loop, and stalked by a similar killer, Tree and her boyfriend Carter (Israel Broussard) are the only ones who can help. However, Tree’s interference with the situation only sends her back into the time loop. Except everything is different, and Lori is not the killer this time. With the help of Ryan’s friends (Suraj Sharma and Sarah Yarkin), Tree will have to find out who the new killer is in order to break from the loop once and for all.
Honestly, the expectations for this film were set on the true purpose of a sequel. Happy Death Day was more or less designed to be a one-off film, with nothing really left open for more stories. When they announced this film, it was more confusing than anything. At the same time, they were being very secretive about the plot, so we had nothing to really get an idea of what it will look like. So, with all this, how does Happy Death Day 2U turn out?
Not only is this film much more entertaining than it had any right to be, it’s actually better than its predecessor. Happy Death Day 2U throws out its slasher conventions and goes from a simple horror film to a hilarious and ambitious science fiction comedy with its own mythology. This movie takes so many risks that, even while watching it, you’re worried that it’s going to crash and burn by the end. But it manages to hold together with each new twist introduced.
Once again, Jessica Rothe proves she’s a truly rising talent. Just like in the first film, she perfectly delivers the jokes in a hilariously deadpan fashion. Her screams of victory against the killer, annoyed groans at starting the day again, and gleeful expressions at all the absurd ways she can kill herself are all good for some of the healthiest laughs a horror film can delivery. There’s nothing funnier than watching Tree happily skydive in her underwear, or dive headfirst into a wood chipper, only to come back the next time and try again.
The shift in genres was also a fresh welcome to this franchise. The first one knew it was essentially Groundhog Day meets Scream, and it knew how to bring a fresh sense of humor to it while still being a horror film. This one begins as a horror film, but very quickly morphs into something else. Just like the first one knew how familiar its concept was, this one knew how completely out-there its ambitious ideas were, and it knew how to turn that into a real kick-butt continuation.
One thing to highlight about this film’s humor is that it never overstays its welcome. So many comedies these days seem intent to repeat the same jokes over and over until they are done to death, with the idea that it will keep the audience laughing. Happy Death Day, both 1 and 2, delivers the best of its humor, then moves on to its other jokes rather than repeating them. This is helped by the fact that the jokes are consistently funny, using the increasingly oddball concept to their advantage.
It’s hard to talk about anymore without spoiling important aspects of the story, so it’s worth stopping here so you can find out for yourself. Happy Death Day 2U manages to improve upon its already really good predecessor by doubling down on the slasher satire and science fiction ridiculousness without ever losing its charm. It also features Jessica Rothe in yet another hilariously deadpan performance as a girl who has too much fun flipping through the same day over and over again, yet her joyous suicides never get old. This was a sequel that we didn’t really need, but it’s the start of a franchise we didn’t know we wanted. With Happy Death Day 3 already in the minds of Blumhouse, it’ll be interesting to see where it goes from here.