Happy Death Day was an impressive if imperfect film, taking its memorable premise – Groundhog Day meets an ‘80s slasher-whodunnit – to comedic extremes. I confess scepticism upon hearing of a sequel Happy Death Day 2U, helmed by the same director, is part-faithful-sequel (with Jessica Rothe’s Tree getting stuck in another endless loop of murder – on the same damn day), part-restlessly-creative-reimagining.
The film largely pivots away from horror to emphasis its over-the-top comedic elements with a sci-fi twist. It’s a mess of contradictions; unpredictable one minute, utterly predictable the next. Every few minutes I’d find my attention waning before we’d lurch in a new direction – a Paramore-scored suicide montage, a litany of impressively-inaccurate science, or a sub-plot involving stealing from the crusty dean. As that last sequence suggests, Happy Death Day 2U is very much an ‘80s film through-and-through.
There’s a glint of seriousness in the back half, as the film idly considers existential questions examined in detail in Netflix’s recent Groundhog Day series, Russian Doll. But the moment things threaten to get weighty, there’s another ludicrously silly sequence to look forward to. Like so many ‘80s movies, this is uneven but thoroughly enjoyable nonetheless – and a surprising upgrade from its predecessor.