The 2017 film Happy Death Day was a superior teenage horror comedy which mixed a Nightmare on Elm Street-style plot with Groundhog Day. The second episode, Happy Death Day 2U, brings science fiction to the storyline, and proves equally clever and entertaining.
The sci-fi elements – reliving the same day in a parallel universe, and characters fixing the time machine to explain the time loop – give the movie new elements to explore rather than simply rethreading the same storyline.
Those who enjoyed the first film will find this one fun as well. Yet audiences should be warned that 2U is actually a continuation of number one rather than a sequel; viewers who have not seen the original won’t have a clue what is going on.
Most of the main characters are back in the second episode, and the story takes place in the same setting, with a twist – the school and its surroundings are placed in a parallel universe which has some small differences.
The oddly named Tree (Jessica Rothe), who had to relive the same day over and over again in the first film until she found out who killed her, is transported to a parallel dimension when a school science experiment goes wrong. Unfortunately for Tree, she wakes up in exactly the same place and time as before – with that masked killer still out to get her.
Even though everything initially seems the same, Tree slowly realises the world she has arrived in is not quite her own – her boyfriend is dating her best friend, her deceased mother is alive, and the identity of the masked killer may be different.
Tree rounds up the kids who conducted the science experiment, and they decide to try and get her back to her own dimension. The problem is they only have one day to work out how to do it, because as Tree starts the exact same day again each morning, all their scientific research is lost.
The film’s science elements are unexpectedly good. Parallel universes are big in theoretical physics, and the ‘multiverse’ theory – which is referenced in the story – is a real theory that claims there are an infinite number of parallel worlds that differ to ours, some in minor ways and some in major ways.
While the school experiment looks more Weird Science than Stanley Kubrick, the filmmakers have obviously done their homework, and their frantic scientific conversations do make sense. That in itself is a major achievement for a teenage horror comedy.
Since there is so much sci-fi involved, the slasher and horror are downplayed and there aren’t any shocks and blood. This might disappoint viewers who are looking for more of the same.
Rothe, as Tree, seems to be having a lot of fun reliving the situations of the first film in another dimension, and she manages to invent a new-style horror queen – a fearless and pugnacious maths whizz who continually saves the boys from meeting a horrible end.