What do you Lose in a Do-over: Happy Death Day 2U (2019)
Mateo Keegan Burbano
31 October 2019
Christopher Landon is back to direct and write the sequel to 2017’s Blumhouse hit, Happy Death Day (2017), based on characters created by Scott Lobdell. Also, back are all your favorite characters that you’re indifferent to from the first film, with a handful of new comic relief characters. Jessica Rothe is here as the lead, Tree, trapped in a Groundhog Day cycle of repeating the same day over and over, having the day reset with her death. Israel Broussard is Tree’s love interest, Carter, and Phi Vu plays Carter’s roommate, Ryan.
The film opens with Ryan stuck in his own time loop. Turns out, Ryan is a physicist and engineer who’s built a quantum cooling reactor that’s responsible for the time loops Tree suffered through in the first Happy Death Day (guess what ever explanation offered in the first film is thrown out the window). Ryan’s own time loop begins when he’s stabbed by the returning babyface masked killer. Tree, Carter, Ryan, are aided by Ryan’s lab partners, and newcomers to the franchise, Dre (played by Sarah Yarkin) and Samar (Suraj Sharma). Their attempt to use the quantum cooling reactor to close the time loops result in Tree being reality kicked into a parallel universe, and the sequel’s attempt to justify its existence.
Before being jettisoned into an alternate reality, Tree quickly recaps the events of the first film. A quarter of the sequels’ plot is dependent on you remembering what happened in the first film, and since specific plot points from the first film weren’t exactly memorable, good luck of keeping track of Tree’s relationship to her roommate, her affair with her married teacher, and the relevance of a hospitalized serial killer. The film’s need to stick to calling back to the same day of the first film (Tree’s birthday) to justify its title’s play on the phrase “Happy Birthday” is more of a hindrance than anything else.
The film squeezes in some slapstick comedy with the college dean and campus security guards that just adds confusion about what tone the film is going for. In the alternate universe, Tree’s mother is still alive but Carter, the boy she loved in her original universe, is dating someone else. The film pushes these two plot twists hard to prove the film has conflict beyond the first film’s conflict. Tree brings Carter, Ryan, Dre and Samar together to close the time loop in this alternate universe but struggles over whether or not to return to her own universe, where she might have the boy, but her mother has been dead since she was a young child.
As the team tries to figure out the right equation to plug into the quantum reactor, their plan relies on the recursive Tree dying and repeating the day to work out that equation. What follows are questionable sequences of Tree committing suicide to avoid being murdered by the masked babyface killer (who’s here to give the franchise an iconic visual, I guess). Suicide is played off for laughs but portrayed with enough detail that someone who really is suicidal could use the film as a how-to primer.
In the end, Tree must decide if a do-over where she can relive her life without her past traumas is worth sacrificing how those traumas strengthened her into the person she is now. Casting aside the needless confusion of tying into a prior money-making film, Happy Death 2U is saved from being a completely needless money grab in how its story presents the argument that who we are, despite all the painful experiences we endured, is our true selves. To erase those traumas by some convenient McGuffin, to play what-if that awful thing didn’t happen, would erase that stronger person we’ve become.
3 out of 5 Dead Mothers
Happy Death Day 2U is currently available on HBO GO