Two years ago, horror writer and director Christopher Landon (of Paranormal Activity fame) debuted Happy Death Day, a film that paired the time-looping premise of Groundhog Day with college students, creepy single-toothed baby masks, and classic slasher tropes. It was wildly popular, grossing $125 million from a $5 million budget, and had fans clamoring for a sequel.
Happy Death Day 2U is the latest installment of what could become a franchise, according to producer Jason “Don’t Know No Lady Directors” Blum. And contrary to my expectations, it’s one of the best Blumhouse movies I’ve seen. In Happy Death Day 2U, fear and existential angst intersect with nonsensical science-fiction (at one point, a nerd uses a napkin to explain the multiverse) to create a perfectly serviceable and surprisingly feel-good horror movie.
Tree (Jessica Rothe), the series’ bizarrely named but extremely likable protagonist, is no helpless scream queen; upon realizing that she’s once again caught in a time loop, she immediately begins investigating the cause of her endless death day cycle. Turns out it’s a quantum physics experiment gone awry, leaving Tree stuck in another dimension—one where her deceased mother (Missy Yager) is still alive, but also one where her love interest is with someone else and serial killer John Tombs (Rob Mello) is still on the loose.
Happy Death Day 2U ends up being less about murder and more about Tree’s choice: to stay in this backwards dimension with her mom, or to return home to her original dimension. It’s still a goofy horror movie with some seriously dark jokes. But the weirdly great thing about Happy Death Day 2U is how it operates in the space between life and death, allowing its characters to reflect on grief, pain, and all the other horrible crap humans have to deal with (like escaped serial killers) while still finding resilience and humor in something as messed up as being murdered hundreds of times.