Don’t be fooled by the promotional material for the follow-up to 2017 Blumhouse horror/comedy Happy Death Day. The sequel owes more to the Back to the Future franchise than Halloween. There’s not a whole lotta slashing in this one. Instead our heroine Tree (Rothe) opts to kill herself again and again in order to figure out the algorithm to close the time loop that created the Groundhog Day scenario in the first film. She does not choose to go gently into that good night, however; the death scenes are high-impact, each one a gruesome self-murder. The concept is perfectly millennial – we who get our kicks proliferating memes that turn the idea of death into a joke. We long for it, just the sweet release to free us from the crushing weight of student debt and the adverse effects of decades of rampant capitalism. Suicide is just fine; the horror lies in actually waking up to the same old reality.
HDD2U builds on the original (there’s a speedy recap in case you need to be caught up), even echoing some of the same jokes. This film plays on the idea of multiple universes, bringing some wacky concepts into the mainstream (are we all in agreement that we’re living in a computer simulation? Ok, good). Tree gets stuck in an alternate life scenario, and must be forced to make a tough choice (which is a little superficial): stay in the alterna-verse where there are good things, or go back to the other one, where there are also good things (I’m being purposefully vague here; the trailer didn’t give everything away). The comedy rests on Rothe’s facial expressions and reactions (gosh she’s good); she’s beefed up her acting chops since the last one. There’s a scene that strives to be touching, but it comes off cheap. The dialogue is clingy and cliched, the stuff of a Hallmark card. Yet, it’s not wholly ineffective; I was rolling my eyes as they were welling with tears.
There’s a distinct Eighties vibe that appeals to the intended demographic, especially in the bumbling school administrator Dean Bronson (Zissis, more stooge than villain), the sexual politics between the characters (they are in college after all), and the delicious bitchiness of mean girl Danielle (Matthews). Yet for all its ambition with loopy timelines and dubious scientific explanations, convenient logic only justified in pushing the plot along, the actual world-building falls flat. The creepy hospital feels like a movie set. Someone gets stuck in an elevator for chrissakes. Which leads me to wonder, if there are alternate realities, are they all as mundane as this one?
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