Review: 'Happy Death Day 2U' Is A Stupendously Silly Slasher Sequel
Déjà vu goes deadly (again) in Happy Death Day 2U, the rousing sequel to Blumhouse’s 2017 horror-comedy hit Happy Death Day. The dazzlingly funny Jessica Rothe reprises her role of oft-slain sorority girl Tree Gelbman. And while much of the cast is back—along with director turned writer/director Christopher Landon—there are new wrinkles in time/space and a new whodunit to be unraveled. Landon leans into Rothe’s biting charisma and sharp comic timing to build an adventure that’s a laugh riot spiked with thrills.
Happy Death Day 2U picks up moments before the first film’s final scene. Having solved the mystery of the Bayfield Baby Slasher, Tree had lived to see another day! Celebrating by cozying up to her good boy beau Carter (Israel Broussard), she’s interrupted by his gawky roommate, Ryan (Phi Vu). But in the sequel, we see that morning from Ryan’s perspective, and on repeat. The morning after Tree survives her brush with a killer, Ryan is stalked by a mysterious murderer in that same baby mask! Once he’s murder-rebooted to that morning, Tree is quick to investigate. For her efforts, she gets knocked back into her birthday/death day. But there’s some curious differences this time. Catty sorority sister Danielle (Rachel Matthews) misses her cue in Tree’s morning routine. And Tree’s would-be killer doesn’t seem to hold a deadly grudge anymore. Soon Tree realizes she’s been knocked into a time loop in an alternate dimension! But there’s still a sinister Bayfield Baby Slasher on campus. Not only does she need to catch the killer but also crack the code of how to get home before she runs out of lives.
This dimensional twist gives new life to Tree’s death day, while still allowing plenty of opportunities for callback gags. All the characters you remember—and some you probably forgot—are back to tangle with Tree once more. Brousard is once more suitably cute as the crush-worthy love interest. Phan expands his affably daffy portrait of a surfer/nerd. And Matthews gets a hilarious slapstick showcase thanks to Danielle’s newfound fascination in The Miracle Worker, which she naturally conflates with Amélie and The Diary of Anne Frank. Tree also makes new friends in Ryan’s quantum physics lab partners Samar (Suraj Sharma) and Dre (Sarah Yarkin), a pair of quirky nerds who drop exposition lines as easily as goofy one-liners about flirting and Yoo-hoo. Though the gags are shared throughout this kinetic cast, Happy Death Day 2U is truly an encore for Rothe.
The first time around, she brought energy and laughs into the tale of a doomed party girl. And this time, Rothe turns Tree’s furious frustration into pure comedy gold. The first movie’s murder montage sequence is given a twisted suicidal spin, wherein gags go from campy self-kills to punk-rock outrageous annihilation. Because if you got to go down, why not make a big, dramatic mess to spite your frenemies? Landon employs slow motion not only to enhance the delicious ludicrousness of certain plot points but also to allow us to revel in the masterful mugging of Rothe, whose face was made to spin from anxiety-inducing grimaces to goofy, wild-eyed grins to rubber-jawed screams. She is a diva of dark comedy. She is a living cartoon, being too much and yet exactly what this wild genre-bender needs.
A warning to those looking for scares, that’s not really Happy Death Day 2U’s aim. This sequel moves even further from the slasher genre tropes, wandering deeper into broad comedy terrain with a scenic detour through science-fiction. Rated PG-13, there’s little gore and most of the kills are played for laughs. It’s not frightening, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun. You’ll scream with laughter.
Happy Death Day 2U opens Friday.
Header Image Source: Universal Pictures