The never-ending nightmare continues Thanks to time travel, Tree’s life has become a living nightmare once more. Happy Death Day 2U introduces another interesting concept for this horror pastiche: the multiverse theory. But does it shine in comparison to its predecessor?
The film picks up where we left off. After being freed from the time loop, Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) tries to resume her normal school life, getting together with Carter (Israel Broussard) in the process. However, Ryan (Phi Vu) – Carter’s friend – is the time loop’s new victim. He relives Tuesday 19th after the Babyface killer begins targeting him. After many severe hijinks, Tree is pulled back in time to Monday 18th – her birthday! But things do not match the timeline she is familiar with; in this timeline, she is not the Babyface’s target.
Happy Death Day 2U gets off to a rocky start. Ryan encounters his alternate self, who is in disguise as the Babyface killer. Then he becomes an ally as soon as Tree and her friends capture him. Ryan’s subplot is left on an ambiguous ending; we never see his double again until the end of the film. Does his double return to his alternate timeline? More importantly: why does his double try to kill him? This feels like a convoluted way to introduce Tree to the time travel machine. But not to worry; the film improves as soon as Tree sees her mother in the alternate timeline.
In her scenes with her mother, we see a vulnerable side to Tree, which makes her character more compelling. The scenes with her parents are heart-warming – a counterbalance to the exhilarating scenes with the Babyface killer. Many of the jokes share parallels to the previous film’s jokes, including the hilarious montage of Tree finding the killer. Tree’s suicide reel set to Paramore’s ‘Hard Times’ is a real highlight.
The film’s forte is its characterisation. Usually, horror films use cookie-cutter characters, whilst focusing more on gore and shock value. But Happy Death Day 2U subverts our expectations of the slasher genre. Although the same cast returns, we end up uncovering their hidden depths in the parallel timeline. Tree is not your typical dumb blonde that dies first; she knows how to fend for herself and always saves herself and other characters. We also learn that Ryan is into quantum physics, an interest that kickstarts the main premise.
Moreover, many of the outcomes in the new timeline change the characterisation of several
familiar faces. Lori (Ruby Modine) ends up not being the villain in the alternate timeline, a satisfying change that makes the story unpredictable. The actors do a remarkable job in making us root for the characters. Jessica Rothe chews the scenery as the sassy heroine but softens during her heartfelt moments with her mother (Missy Yager). She even has a heartfelt moment with Lori, after finding out that Lori is in a relationship with her lecturer. Rachel Matthews steals the show as the mean girl, Danielle. By the film’s climax, we end up loving to hate her.
Happy Death Day 2U’s premise falls flat – at first – but gets back on its feet when Tree is
sucked back in time. In the end, it is a wickedly entertaining film that adds a sci-fi twist to the
slasher tropes. So long as this series does not face franchise rot, Happy Death Day could be
the next Scream.