Happy Death Day was a surprisingly enjoyable horror-comedy that, although limited by a PG-13 rating, managed to be a competent slasher as well as a creative homage to Groundhog Day. Whilst I liked it, I was unsure about a sequel, as the first film was entirely self-contained and seemed to say all it could. The only thing it did not do is explain why the time loop happened, which is the driving force of this follow-up, one that is thankfully just as enjoyable as its predecessor.
Directly after the events of Happy Death Day, Tree (Jessica Rothe) and Carter (Israel Broussard) discover that Carter’s roommate Ryan (Phi Vu) has been sucked into the time loop. When both investigate, they also discover that Ryan and Samar (Suraj Shurma) to have created a machine for a science project that messes with time. As a result, different time-lines are created and Tree must deal with the differences between her world and the new one that she gets thrown into.
(Sorry if any of my descriptions are vague, it’s just to avoid spoilers, as the plot beyond the initial set up probably shouldn’t be detailed).
This time around, the horror elements are somewhat obligatory as the main story is more of a sci-fi time travel story that is basically the Back to the Future Part II of this series. The result of trying to deal with time-travel so thoroughly is a messier and more cluttered plot that goes in so many different directions and even abandons most of what gets set up in the opening 20 minutes to shift gears to a different storyline.
But the story still works because it manages to be very unpredictable and surprisingly emotional at times. There is a lot of clear thought put into the narrative and genuine effort made to not just be a retread of the first film. The characters are also still likeable enough to keep you invested in much of the exposition. The only other writing issue I had was with Danielle (Rachel Matthews), who despite having the opportunity to be a nicer character is still written as a jerk, with an incredibly forced moment in the third act hammering this home. There’s a hilarious sequence with her that makes up for it towards the end, but I would have preferred it if the story stuck with her being completely different.
The acting from everyone is still solid, as lead actress Jessica Rothe continues to be endearing, funny and sympathetic. Every returning actor is given the chance to play a slightly different personality whilst still essentially being the same as last time. Though that results in actors like Ruby Mondine and Israel Broussard showing a lack of range, it gives Rachel Matthews more of a chance to steal the show and be quite an enjoyable screen presence.
The direction is far better than the original, as writer/director Christopher B. Landon creates a film with cinematography and editing that is tighter and more polished. There are various sequences that are quite stylistic and moments that are so over the top that they are gut-bustlingly funny. The PG-13 rating is only noticeable once with an off-screen stabbing, but for the most part the violence is effective and, in one stand out montage, darkly comedic. The tone overall becomes downright cartoonish, but the film is consistently funny enough to sell these moments.
Happy Death Day 2U is a decent follow-up that keeps all the good aspects from the original whilst increasing the entertainment value, despite a convoluted story weighing it down. I’d like to see the third (and hopefully final) film teased in the mid-credits scene.