“What exactly are you always looking for under that desk?”
-Tree on the approximately 20th repeat of that morning.
Happy Death Day: 2U is the sequel to 2016’s horror-comedy Happy Death Day. Both movies feature on Tree (Jessica Rothe), a college student who finds that she had become stuck in a time loop and keeps living the same day ad nasueam while there is a killer on the loose. This movie begins minutes before the end of the first movie. Most of the cast and crew of that first movie have returned for this movie
2U is a worthy sequel to the first movie that lives up to the promise of being something unique while maintaining the same tone. For best results in terms of the humor and Tree’s character beats, one should watch the original first.
By “being something unique”, I’m referring to this movie being a lot more of a science fiction movie than it is a horror movie. It is revealed that the time loop is the result of a science-experiment conducted by Ryan, a side character in the first movie, and two of his friends. When they run the machine again in order to fix a problem, Tree gets knocked back into the previous day But this time in a parallel dimension with slight differences: her love interest from the first movie is dating someone else, the resident bitch puts up a much nicer facade, the killer in the first movie is now being pursued by a masked killer, etc.
Now the focus of the movie is on finding the right algorithm through trial and error to end the time loop problem, with the slasher element taking a far back-seat. With the day resetting, Tree has to become a living record of their progress, which is one hell of an incentive to learn and understand quantum mechanics. I liked the movie following through on the oft-repeated promise of a sequel being other than a rehash of the first one and give points to the writing crew for creativity.
Like the first movie, there is a heavy focus on Tree’s emotional journey, which is rare for many horror movies. Whereas the first movie has her seeing how much of a bitch she was and working on correcting her behavior, this one has her dealing with, in essence, the question of past vs. future and the need to take a leap of faith. This focus on character is well complimented by the film’s excellent cast, especially Ms. Rothe. She portrays the desperation and frustration of her situation well and is superb in the more emotional scenes.
I did have some minor problems with the movie. There’s some inconsistency in the long-term effects. It’s established in both movies that she accumulates physical damage from each time she dies but in both movies, it’s inconsistent in that she will be pass out and wake up in the hospital from the cumulative toll but is fine after the next deaths. Given that this movie takes place the day after most of the first movie, it also lacks signs of the physical toll from the first movie. Tree has to reset each day by killing herself, which she seems a bit too gung-ho about given how it’s established that “dying sucks”, granted there does appear to be traces of resignation during this montage.
The other quibble is that the movie at times follows the structure of the original a bit too closely: Montage of her dying while learning about people around her, passing out and waking in the hospital, making a sacrifice to prevent the loop from being closed, an emotional birthday conversation with a parent, etc. It is still somewhat organic to the plot, but the point remains.
Overall, 2U is a good movie in its own right. If you’re a fan of the first one who is open to something different, you should like this movie given how it maintains the tone and character-work of the first. The duology, as it stands, would be prime for a double-feature.